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Today we are going to talk about Huacatay (Tagetes minuta), a fundamental ingredient in Andean cuisine, but which might be an enigma for those who were not born in Peru. Since our cuisine makes good and extensive use of this herb you are going to find it in many of our recipes. So, what´s Huacatay?

It is a native Peruvian herb related to marigold and tarragon that has been used since Inca times giving our food an special and unique flavor. It is said that the indigenous collected it for medicinal purposes too, but today, it is mainly used as a condiment to give a rich flavor to sauces, stews and roasts. It is used to season poultry, meat, seafood, potatoes and corn. Above all, it is used as part of creamy sauces.

Because this herb has such a special flavor, there really is no substitute, though a combination of mint and coriander comes closest. However, it would be better to look for it in Latin supermarkets. You might find it as a green paste with a pungent aroma like between mint and basil.  The herb Tagetes minuta, known in Peru with its name of Quechua origin, Huacatay, can also be found with other names, such as epazote, sacred herb, black mint and aymará wacataya. Other names include Southern Cone, marigold, Khakibos, stinking roger, wild marigold.

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