Huacatay, known also as wakatay in some Quecha language communities or as “menta negra” is a spontaneous annual herb originally from the area that includes Bolivia and Peru where it grows wild.
The leaves are traditionally used in teas or as a spice: after harvesting by hand the leaves are gathered in bundles held together by a drier part of the plant in order to be dried. Drying is done in a dry place out of direct sunlight, where the bundles of leaves are hung.
The leaves are mainly used in Peruvian cuisine, sometimes the stalk is added, to prepare sauces, flavor meat and vegetable stews as well as to marinate fish or meat. One of the most important recipes is ocopa, a salsa that is used to dress boiled potatoes; or pachamanca, a dish with meat and tubers that is steeped together with the spice and then cooked underground. This type of cooking also fulfills an important ritual and gift function for the land.
The leaves are used to prepare a beverage by putting a handful of the dry part in hot water for a few minutes; the beverage can be drunk hot or cold.
Along with use in cuisine, the huacatay leaves are traditionally used as a remedy in folk medicine; teas are prepared to relieve respiratory problems, help with digestion and for flu symptoms.