Other Names: Aymara wacataya (Peruvian Quechua); black mint; Mexican marigold; Peruvian black mint.

General Description: Huacatay (Tagetes minuta), a native Peruvian herb related to marigold and tarragon, has a pungent aroma somewhere between mint and basil. Among thousands of native herbs, huacatay has given Peruvian seasoning its unique zest from Incan to contemporary times. The herb’s spicy-fresh flavor is beloved by the Andean peoples of Bolivia and Peru, who use it to season boiled and roasted dishes, fish and seafood, and the native capybara (an animal like a guinea pig). Jars of huacatay mint paste from the Peruvian rain forest are an acceptable substitute for the fresh herb. Because this herb has such a special flavor, there really is no substitute, though a combination of mint and coriander comes closest.

Purchase and Avoid: Huacatay is commonly sold in small jars in puree form. It is sold fresh in Peru and Bolivia.

Serving Suggestions: Serve Peruvian Huacatay Sauce with boiled and then fried yuca (manioc) sections garnished with crumbled queso añejo (aged white cheese). Make shredded duck confit empanadas and serve with a sauce made from sour oranges, fresh huacatay (or huacatay puree), vinegar, olive oil, and mirasol chiles.

Food Affinities: Chilean sea bass, chiles (especially Peruvian amarillo, rocoto, and mirasol), corn, duck, potato, sour orange, swordfish, tuna, vinegar.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com