Mexican mint marigold, also known as “Texas Tarragon” since it is better suited to a long, hot summer yet has the anise flavor, is an easy to grow tender perennial native to Mexico and Guatemala. The Tarahumara Indians of Chihuahua and the Huichol Indians of Jalisco and Nayarit especially favor this herb and use it in their religious rituals. The Astecs used it to flavor chocolatl, a foaming, cocoa-based drink. Today it is used externally for scorpion bites and to remove ticks plus the dried plant is burned as incense and to repel insects.
A member of the Asteraceae family, this compact herb has finely serrated lance-shaped leaves and produces an abundance of small, single, golden marigold-like blossoms in fall. Mexican mint marigold grows in a shapely clump from 1 ½ to 2 ½ feet tall in full sun and well-drained soil. It is also fairly drought tolerant. It is a wonderful addition to the landscape, but also may be grown in a big clay pot. Mexican mint marigold is even an excellent houseplant for bright light and moderate temperatures. It is also reputed to attract beneficial to the garden, thereby helping to reduce undesirable pest damage. Plant seeds about 6 weeks before planting in early spring or propagate by cutting which root easily in water. Where it is hardy (zone 8), it reseeds in late fall and may also be propagated by root division. Cut it for use all summer and fall as it brightens and perfumes floral arrangements. It makes an irresistible pet plant, as you can’t walk by it without brushing your hand over it and inhaling the fragrance.
Milder yet more anise-like, Mexican mint marigold leaves may be used in any dish calling for French tarragon and is delicious in everything from teas and wines, to salads, sauces, fish and poultry dishes, vinaigrette, and even desserts. The bright blossoms are also edible! Stuff minced garlic and Mexican mint marigold leaves under the skin of chicken before grilling, make an herbal butter or cheese spread with the leaves plus orange zest and minced onions, add to fruit punches or hot mulled cider or simply add to make unique vinegar for dressing green salads. It should be added late in the cooking process, as its flavor tends to cook out. Mexican mint marigold has become the darling of many Southwestern chefs; some even make a pesto from it!
Mexican mint marigold makes an
ornamental specimen plant combined with
purple flowering salvias in a border
or in a foundation planting
interspersed with low growing thyme
MEXICAN MINT MARIGOLD COOKIES
1c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2c sesame seeds, toasted
1/2c pecans, chopped
1Tbs fresh Mexican Mint Marigold, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
Cream together butter, brown sugar and vanilla, then beat in egg. Add sesame seeds, pecans and Mexican mint marigold to the butter mixture. Combine flour, salt and baking powder and add to mixture. Refrigerate dough for half an hour. Drop in small mounds 3 inches apart onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 9 mins. Let cool slightly on baking sheet, then remove to a cooling rack.
MIXED HERB VINEGAR
½ cup sweet basil
½ cup oregano
½ cup rosemary
1 teaspoon mixed peppercorns
¼ cup Mexican Mint Marigold
1 teaspoon whole cloves
4 bay leaves
Fill a clean, sterilized glass jar with the fresh herbs. Pour either heated white or red wine vinegar over the herbs; bruise the herbs with a wooden spoon. Cover the container and store in a cool, dark place at room temperature for 3 weeks. Shake every four or five days. Filter/strain the herbs from the vinegar.
MEXICAN MINT MARIGOLD CHICKEN
4 boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
3 green onions, with tops
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3Tbs chopped fresh Mexican Mint Marigold
3Tbs Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
2Tbs butter, softened
1Tbs white wine
Pound and flatten chicken breasts and trim excess fat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Combine the remaining ingredients to make a thick paste. Place on each breast, roll up tightly and place seam side down on a lightly oiled baking dish. Bake at 350 degree for about 30 minutes. Slice into medallions to serve.
". . . I have given you all things even as the green herbs."