The city of Oaxaca, capital of the state of Oaxaca, lies in a valley known as the Etla Valley. Etla is the Spanish rendering of the Nahuatl word etl, which means “black beans.” So the Etla Valley is the valley of black beans, and this is indeed the bean which one encounters almost exclusively in Mexico’s south.
Epazote is an indigenous Mexican herb. It has a strong smell that is reminiscent of something you might use to thin paint, but it actually adds a rich, wonderful, indescribable flavor to things cooked with it. You can find fresh epazote at Hispanic grocery stores. It is said by some that cooking black beans with epazote helps mitigate any gastric disturbances one might normally expect from eating beans, but I’m not sure how much the evidence supports this. I just know that it really compliments frijoles negros. Continue reading