Mexican Marigold

Tagetes minuta

Mexican marigold (not to be confused with Mexican tarragon aka Mexican Mint Marigold) is a tall annual herb with tiny marigold flowers. (The "minuta" apparently refers to the flower and not a plant) It is an invasive species in places where you don't get a good hard freeze, so, if you choose to plant this, do so with care.

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Mexican marigold is used as a seasoning, a condiment, and the basis of tea in many parts of South and Central America and the Southwestern United States. It has a number of common names in different regions: chinchilla, chiquilla, chilca, zuico, suico, anisillo, muster John Henry, southern marigold, Khakibos, stinking roger, wild marigold, wakatay, huacatay and black mint. It is processed into the black mint paste, sold in the Latino section of your well-stocked grocery store.

The plant has narrow, fern-like leaves and tiny pale yellow flowers. It grows about 4 feet tall, though I have heard of 8 foot and 12 foot tall plants. It looks a bit like cannabis to the casual observer.

Caution
The oils in this plant may cause contact dermatitis in sensitive people and excessive exposure can lead to photosensitivity.

Mexican Marigold is a Annual plant that grows best in zones 1 through 9
Light requirements: part sun 
Soil Requirements: moderately rich
Moisture requirements: dry

Flowers

pale yellow

appear in the Summer

Fruit

appear in the Fall.

Mexican Marigold is best planted in the Spring for a Summer harvest

Mexican Marigold is drought tolerant.
Mexican Marigold is shade tolerant

Growing Mexican Marigold

Huacatay likes good soil and bright sun, but, once it gets started, it will carry on just fine regardless of your neglect. Seeds should be sown on the surface, as it needs light to germinate. This plant will not tolerate frost.

The plant will self-seed if given the opportunity. It is a good idea not to give it the opportunity as it can become an invasive problem and it's rather large. Harvest it just as the flower buds appear.

Companions

Mexican marigold is often grown as a companion plant to trees and shrubs and along garden boarders to keep back weeds and inhibit the growth of nematodes and many perennial weeds, including couch grass, creeping charlie and bindweed. The tiny flowers, which appear quite late in the year, give late-season food to pollinators to keep them around for when the fruit trees are blooming in the spring.

It is also reported to be a good companion for pole beans and peas.

Incompatible Plants

Its resistance to bindweed suggests that morning glories would not enjoy its company. Since Creeping Charlie doesn't like it, it's also possible that other members of the mint family will find it antagonistic. Experimentation may need to be done.

Potential Pests and Diseases

slugs, snails

Uses for Mexican Marigold

Mexican marigold leaves exude a fruity aroma. They can be used to season foods and to make tea. The flavor of the tea has value alone, but a stronger tea can also be used to sooth inflammation of the respiratory tract and maybe help prevent internal parasites.

Dried leaves and stems can be hung around the house to keep out flies and floated in standing water to kill mosquito larva. The essential oil is said to be insect repellant. Its best use is to get rid of pests on other plants. Just boil up some leaves in clean water and put it in a spray bottle. Bonus, it's also anti-fungal.

Mexican marigold can be used as a summer cover crop. It should be cut down and plowed under before it flowers to add lots of pest-repelling organic matter to the soil.

Huacatay is used extensively in Peruvian cooking. It is said to taste like a cross between mint and basil with a splash of citrus. It is usually made into a paste, called black mint paste that is used as a condiment and to season potatoes, chicken, etc.

see http://www.witchipedia.com/herb:marigold
http://www.sacredhearth.com/food:huacatay

Mexican Marigold Folklore

Correspondences
Element(s): Earth -
Planet(s): - -
Season:
Sabbat:
Deities:
Zodiac Signs:
Gender: male

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