Huacatay  or Peruvian black mint


Peruvian Black Mint

Huacatay (Tagetes minuta), next to other local names also known as Wacatay and Peruvian black mint as well as wild, mint, or southern marigold, is an aromatic herb native to Peru used as a seasoning in cooking as well as for medicinal purposes.

The plant is a flowering member of the marigold family growing in the Peruvian Andes (and all-over South America) to heights of half a meter to two meters (1.5 – 6 feet). Its soft green leaves and tiny yellow or green flowers emit an intense and distinctive, but pleasant fresh marigold floral aroma and taste like a fruity and cooling mixture of basil, tarragon, mint and lime.

Chopped fresh, dried or in paste form Huacatay plays an important role in the Peruvian cuisine especially in dishes from southern Peru. It’s used as condiment in soups, stews and marinates such as the one for Peru’s famous Anticuchos. Often, it’s as well added to or the key ingredient in sauces such as in Salsa ocopa, which not only are served with Peru’s beloved Pollo a la Brasa or to BBQs but also let Arequipa’s simple potato dish Ocopa taste heavenly. And Huacatay as well adds a certain something the meats and vegetables of Peru’s delicious Pachamanca. Juices like Camu-Camu or jams get a first unusual, but then special mint-like flavor when Huacatay leaves are added.

But Huacatay is not only a seasoning giving dishes this special flavor. For thousands of years the aromatic herb is used in Peru as repellent and natural medicine.

Health benefits of Peruvian Huacatay

  • Huacatay is a source of valuable antioxidants and has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and carminative properties.
  • The flavorful tea made from fresh or dried leaves and / or flowers helps fighting colds, respiratory inflammations, and asthma
  • Additionally, Huacatay tea as well as the oil are believed to be effective for treating stomach pains and infections with intestinal parasites such as ascarids and hookworms.
  • And bundles of fresh or dried stems of Huacatay are supposed to keep the house free from insects and bats.

While for years it was nearly impossible to find Huacatay outside Peru, today it's available at least dried, frozen or as paste in Latin American shops or with online retailers. For medicinal purposes huacatay oil is increasingly sold. Finding it fresh might still be a mission, however you could try to plant it as a nice addition in your herb garden.


Say something here...
characters left
or post as a guest
All comments MUST be in English and will be moderated before publishing.
They will appear below within 24 hours.
Loading comment... The comment will be refreshed after 00:00.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Vanessa · 01/06/2023
    My huacatay leaves dried and got brown.  I used compost. Supreme soil and nothing it’s just dying :(
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • LimaEasy
      · 02/06/2023
      @Vanessa Hello Vanessa,

      That’s so frustrating. I feel with you.

      Unfortunately, I’m not a garden expert and there could be many reasons your Huacatay plant died.

      Huacatay prefers a warm climate to grow and thrive. In colder climates, Huacatay is only an annual (so best collect the seeds from your dying plant to use next year), in warmer regions a perennial.

      It loves a constant sunny place, needs well-draining sand or clay soils rich in organic material and space. When harvesting the leaves, only cut the upper part of the plant and leave young leaves at the bottom around ten centimeters from the base to regrow.

    • This commment is unpublished.
      Lyai · 07/08/2023
      @Vanessa It definitely loves sun! Lots of it and water every night. We started with a tiny strand that died but I still planted 
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mitch · 11/10/2022
    Huacatay is very easy to grow and can get quite large if grown with a manure rich soil. Ours are about ten feet tall at the moment. This is in mid-October in Nebraska, United States. It was not bothered by insects at all. We just planted the seedlings and watered.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • LimaEasy
      · 11/10/2022
      @Mitch Hello Mitch,

      yes, Huacatay can easily be grown in any herb garden. It likes it warm, but if there is no frost and moderate temperatures and enough water, it's usually fast-growing and resistant. And it's a great pest and insect repellent.

      So, enjoy your harvest.


Peru Newsflash

Peru Event Calendar

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Latest Content...

Latest Video

Maria Reiche - Memories

Maria Reiche - Memories

Submitted by: Tintin
05 December 2021

Long Reads...

  • Peruvian Archaeology

    The Mystery of the Nazca Lines in Peru

    In the 1920s, when people first flew across southern Peru, they made an astonishing discovery. Stretching below them,…
  • Peruvian Personalities & Founders

    Francisco Pizarro González (1474-1541)

    Francisco Pizarro, a peasant from Spain, was one of the least well-equipped conquerors in history. However, in the name…
  • Peruvian Archaeology

    The colorful Fabrics and Textiles of Peru

    Europe’s first knowledge of Peruvian textiles was acquired following the Spanish invasion of Peru in 1532, when the…
  • Peruvian Legends, Myths & Tales

    The Jeweled Frog and the Condor

    By a quiet pond, at the side of a cloud-topped mountain in Peru, lived a small green frog and his large green family.…
  • Peru Info

    Peruvian Economy

    The Peruvian economy is an emerging, social market economy highly dependent on foreign trade and classified as an upper…