Huacatay Tagetes minuta

Inca marigold, Peruvian black mint, Stinking Roger, Ocopa, Cravo-de-defunto (generic name used for Tagetes species marigolds), cravo-de-urubu (vulture marigold), enxota, Aztec marigold

Huacatay is native to southern South America (Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and the Chaco region of Paraguay). It has a liquorice like aroma/taste and is a popular culinary herb, beverage herb and medicinal tea.

Huacatay flower stalks. These can grow to 2m high (6 or 7 feet)

Plants of the Tagetes species are known as Marigolds (not to be confused with Pot marigolds-calendula species). This family also includes the Mexican herb pericon.

Huacatay flower (approx actual size)

A popular herb in Peru is called “Wakatay” (Huacatay) and is used to flavour a potato dish called Ocopa. It is commonly sold in jars under the name Peruvian Black Mint and can also be used dried as a flavouring.



  • 6 medium yellow (waxy) potatoes
  • 1 large red onion, roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, halved
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup ají amarillo paste (yellow chile paste)
  • ½ cup fresh huacatay (chopped or pureed)
  • 8 water crackers, crushed (30g)
  • 120g. roasted peanuts
  • 240g. ricotta cheese or queso fresco
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups evaporated milk  (or as needed)
  • ½ tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 2 large eggs
  •  lettuce leaves (for garnish)


  1. Peel potatoes; rinse and place in cold salted water.                                             
  2. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, and boil potatoes until just fork tender (about 20-25 minutes).
  3. While cooking, add whole eggs; hard-boil for the last 10 – 12 minutes of potato cooking time.
  4. Rinse potatoes and egg under cold water until cool; drain and set aside.
  5. Heat oil; sauté onion over medium until soft (about 5 minutes).
  6. Add garlic and ají, and sauté over low heat for another 3-4 minutes or so (until translucent and soft; a little golden colour is okay).
  7. Add huacatay (and ají paste, if using instead of fresh); then remove from heat, and allow to cool.
  8. Combine onion mix with peanuts, queso fresco and cracker pieces; place in blender, and purée until smooth.
  9. Add just enough evaporated milk to the blender to make a smooth, creamy sauce. It should be thick, but still pourable.
  10. Taste, and adjust salt as desired.
  11. Slice the potatoes into small rounds, and place on top of lettuce leaves. Top each round with a dollop of sauce, and garnish each potato round with a slice of hard-boiled egg.


  • Aji Amarillo (Capsicum baccatum) can be found in specialty grocers
  • Huacatay – Tagetes minuta – can also be found in jars but there is no real substitute for the fresh herb. You may have to grow this one yourself.

Another interesting way to utilise huacatay is as a flavouring in the popular Central and Southern American dish ceviche (1). Ceviche is a way of “cooking” seafood (2) in an acidic citrus juice. The fish is marinated in the juice for a short period (3) which flavours it and denatures the protein in the flesh altering its texture and (generally) imparting a milky hue. The following dish by Douglas Rodriguez (2010) uses Kingfish and another Peruvian chile the aji panca. The panca pepper is a mildly hot dark red/brown chile with a smokey berry like flavour.

Peruvian Kingfish and Orange Ceviche


  • 1 ½ lb (about 700g) skinless kingfish fillets cut into 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) cubes
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon salt


  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons panca chile paste
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6 sprigs huacatay (can substitute with mint)
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced jalapeno
  • 4 eschalots, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro (coriander leaf), coarsely chopped


  • 1 small red capsicum (bell pepper), deseeded and julienned
  • 2 tablespoons candied orange rind (see next page)


  1. In a nonreactive bowl (glass or stainless steel) gently mix the lime juice, kingfish and salt. Cover and refridgerate for 1 hour.
  2. In another nonreactive bowl mix together the marinade ingredienrs and set aside.
  3. Drain the kingfish and discard the lime juice.
  4. Gently mix the kingfish cubes into the reserved marinade. Cover and refridgerate for 1 hour.
  5. Garnish with candied orange rind and julienned capsicum
  1. Alternative spellings include seviche or cebiche
  2. Usually fish although lobster, crab, prawns/shrimp, mussels, oysters, clams, conch, abalone, scallops, sea urchin roe (essentially any seafood) could be used. They can be used singularly or in combination with each other

An hour or less, usually not much longer as the flesh of fish tends to go mushy, although some thicker fleshed seafood such as octopus may be marinated overnight.

Preserved Panca Pepper Paste

Candied Orange Rind


  • 4 large oranges
  • 1800ml (2 quarts) water
  • 5 cups sugar


  1. Cut the oranges into quarters, remove the flesh and pith and cut the rind into long thin strips
  2. In a pot bring the water to a boil and and the orange rind, cook for a few minutes, until the rind becomes limp, drain and remove from liquid.
  3. Repeat this process twice more using fresh water each time.
  4. In a clean pot add 4 cups of the sugar and 4 cups (1L) of water. Bring to a boil and dissolve the sugar. Reduce to a simmer and add the orange rind. Cook for 30 – 40 minutes.
  5. Remove the rind from the syrup and drain over a rack or place on a towel to remove excess liquid.
  6. Toss the rind in the remaining 1 cup of sugar and place on parchment paper to dry.
  7. It is now ready to use as a garnish. Cumquat peel could also be used instead of orange rind in this recipe.
Fresh Panca pepper (approx actual size)

This plant was introduced into Australia where it quickly became naturalised and is considered an agricultural weed in parts of Queensland and New South Wales. Its common name in Australia is “Stinking Roger”. It is known to taint the flavour of milk when grazed upon by cows.

Thiophenes within the plant are believed to inhibit the growth of nematodes in the soil which makes this a valuable companion plant.

As a companion plant in the garden it deters nematodes from the roots of solanaceae species (tomato, chiles, eggplants, tobacco) and will kill nearby Ground Elder and reduce/deter Bindweed, Couch grass and Ground ivy, offering a protective circle against these perennial weeds.

It is commercially grown for its essential oil which is used in the food and perfume industries. Essential oils are obtained by either steam distillation or solvents and the fresh flowering herb.

Medicinal Uses

Constituents : acyclic, monocyclic and bicyclic monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, pinenes, flavonoids, thiophenes, aromatics, β-ocimene, myrcene, linalol, dihydrotagetone, tagetone, carvone, citral, camphene, (Z)-ocimenone, limonene,  (E)-ocimenone, carotenoid – lutein, xanthophylls, valeric acid, salicylaldehyde

Parts used : aerial parts of plant, leaves/flowers

Actions : antimicrobial, antiviral, hypotensive, bronchodilator, spasmolytic, anti-inflammatory Essential oil – anthelmintic, antispasmodic, bactericidal, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, fungicidal, stomachic

Dosage :


  1. As a beverage,(5g of dried herb infused in 250ml of boiling water for 3-5 minutes), may be consumed warm or cold.                                                                                        
  2. As a medicinal tea, (5g of herb dropped into 250ml boiling water and boiled for 3-5 minutes), 3/day, should be drunk warm and may be sweetened to taste


8-20g of dried herb dropped in boiling water and boiled for 3-5 minutes, strain, sweeten to taste and consume warm

Contra-indications :

The essential oil of Tagetes has tranquilizing and sedative properties that sedates pain, irritation and inflammation in the nervous system, digestive system and respiratory system.

Never use pure, undiluted essential oils internally or for topical application, ensure that you blend Tagetes oil with gentle carrier oils (ie sweet almond), as essential oils are highly concentrated substances and may harm the skin, when used directly.

Warnings :

It is possible that tagetone is harmful to the human organism. Use the essential oil with care and in moderation. (Tisserand,R The Art of Aromatherapy)

There have been cases of dermatitis with some species of Tagetes species. Be aware of this.

Body Systems :

  • Respiratory – a remedy for the common cold, upper and lower respiratory tract inflammations (bronchitis, coughs, colds). The study on ‘Herbal Remedies for Asthma: An Overview’ published in the Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research states that the presence of the active chemical components like α-Terthienyl, Quercetagetrin and Patuletrin in Tagetes minuta essential oil showed ‘bronchodilatory, spasmolytic, tranquillizing, hypotensive and anti-inflammatory activities’, thus proving it effective against respiratory disorders including asthma.
  • Digestive – used to treat upset stomach, diarrhoea, liver ailments and as a vermifuge
  • Integumentary – (essential oil) used for bunions, calluses, corns, fungal infections.

When added to creams and lotions, tagetes oil works to protect skin. The antiseptic, disinfectant, antibiotic and antimicrobial properties of this oil helps in dealing with microbial infections caused by bacteria, virus and fungi.

Open wounds, cuts, scratches, sores and skin ulcers get affected and worsen with the invasion of biotic growth of bacteria, protozoa and certain other parasites. Tagetes oil restrains the biotic growth of similar organisms and helps in healing such skin conditions. A 2004 study on ‘Antibacterial activity of Tagetes minuta essential oil with different chemical composition’ proved that Tagetes oil has antimicrobial properties and is effective against Gram-positive bacteria.

  • Reproductive – the oil has properties which can stimulate menstrual flow
  • Skeletal – has traditional uses in the treatment of rheumatism and back pain

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