Gardening Tips and Tricks : Epazote: How to Dry This Herb at Home
Epazote is an herb that grows as an annual plant in warmer climates. Its leaves are harvested and used, dried, as a spice in Mexican cooking. Epazote has the advantage of aiding in the digestion of beans, making it a popular addition to dishes such as refried beans. Epazote is available to purchase in Mexican markets, but home gardeners can easily grow it and dry it at home.
Before harvesting your epazote, determine where you will be drying it. It is best to hang the stalks of the plant and allow the leave to dry as they hang. The space should be warm, dry, and free of dust. An attic space or shed will work well. If your space has a dirt floor, make sure there is little foot traffic through the area. You do not want your epazote leaves collecting dust. Place hooks or nails high along the wall or in the rafters of the building. You will use these hooks or nails to hang your epazote.
Plan your epazote harvest about mid-morning, after the dew on the plants has dried but while the oil level in the leaves is still high. It is the oil that carries the flavor. You will have a better-quality end-product if you harvest your epazote in the morning.
Pick the entire stalk of the plant to hang in your drying room. Do not try to remove the leaves at this point. If the stalks are small, tie three of them together with cotton string or twine and hang the bunch from the nail or hook in your drying room. Larger stalks can be hung by themselves, perhaps using string to connect them to the hook if necessary.
Ensure that your drying epazote pieces are not hanging so close together that there is no air flow between them. Allow plenty of air flow to reduce the risk of mold.
Leave your project for a week or ten days. When the leaves appear dry, remove one and break it up in your hand. It is ready when it crumbles readily. At this point, the leaves are dry but the stems probably are not. Remove the leaves and discard the stems. Store the leaves in a jar with a tight-fitting lid in a cool, dark place. You epazote leaves will maintain their freshness for many months. As you need them in your cooking, remove a handful of leaves, crumble them, and add them to your recipes.