Marigold Magic

Ocopa with Huacatay sauce containing Tagetes minuta
Ocopa with Huacatay sauce containing Tagetes minuta


I love the smell of Stinking Roger, but my neighbour says it’s a weed to get rid of. Please do tell me what use I can make of it.

Kelly, Facebook

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Kelly, do not fear, it’s a willing herb from South America.

When the first Stinking Roger seedling sprouted in my garden, I suspected it was hemp. I’d never seen Stinking Roger before, but I knew it belonged to the genus Tagetes. You’ve only got to sniff the leaves of Stinking Roger to realise its a close relative of the French and African marigold, or that all have edible petals and leaves.

My favourite French marigold is ‘Himalayan’, a heritage cultivar that can reach 1.25m tall in my Brisbane garden. Belonging to the genus Tagetes. Stinking Roger is Tagetes minuta, a reference to its minuscule flowers.

Just like other marigolds, you can save the seed of Stinking Roger. You can grow it as a green manure to enrich the soil in vegetable and flower beds. Dig the young plants in when they are 20-30cm tall and still soft and juicy. I find the odour somewhat overwhelming on warm afternoons, it’s more pleasant in the morning. Dig it into the soil and  keep the ground moist for a fortnight, decomposing Stinking Roger liberates thiocyanate gas that biofumigate soil. It kills root knot nematodes. Mustard, French and African marigolds can be used the same way.

Ocopa with Huacatay sauce containing Tagetes minuta

I’ve just made my version of Ocopa, a traditional Peruvian dish of boiled eggs and potatoes served on lettuce with a pesto-like Huacatay sauce made with Stinking Roger. I liked it. The flavour of marigolds is the same as their scent, although they lose their aroma during sauce preparation.

I made Ocopa as soon as the first two Stinking Roger seedlings were big enough to snip off leaves. Although the tallest stood 2 metres tall, it was willowy with only about three handfuls of leaves available.

It’s said that green tea made from the leaves relieve the symptoms of a cold.Perhaps one day I’ll try making Black Mint paste, it’s another Andean speciality.

OCOPA and HUACATAY SAUCE (pron. wa-ka-tay)

Serves four
Onion, rough chopped – 1 large (or ½ bunch rough chopped spring onions)
Garlic, peeled, rough chopped – 5 cloves (or ½ cup rough chopped garlic chives)
Vegetable oil – 2 tbsp.
Huacatay (Tagetes minuta) – ½ cup (rough chopped leaves, minus central rib)
Fresh chilli – ¼ cup or to taste
Crackers or crisp bread – 100g, broken into pieces
Roasted peanuts or cashew – 120g (2/3 cup)
Fetta (or queso fresco) – 200g, diced
Evaporated milk – as needed, to make the paste
Salt to taste
Hard boiled eggs – 2 eggs per person, halved
Boiled potato – 100g per person, diced
Lettuce/ endive leaf garnish

A frying pan with a lid is useful.
Heat oil; sauté onion, chilli and garlic until soft (about 5 minutes), but do not brown or crisp.
Remove from heat, stir in huacatay, put on the lid, and allow to cool.
Combine sautéed ingredients with peanuts, cheese and cracker pieces; place in blender, and purée until smooth.
While puréeing, add just enough evaporated milk to make a smooth, creamy sauce.
Huacatay sauce has a thick but pourable consistency.
Taste, adding salt if required.
Slice boiled potatoes and hard boiled eggs, divide into serves and place on top of lettuce/ endive leaves.
Top each serving with a dollop of sauce.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

2nd July 2012
Updated 28th
May 2014


One Comment Add yours

  1. Sonia Bustamante says:

    Hi Jerry,
    I watch you segment at Gardening Australia and I love your tips..
    I make ocopa this way too! I’m Peruvian and I love cooking..
    You can try making aji parrillero as well (Chilli for BBQ)…
    Saute onions, garlic, chillies and huacatay with…blend and mix with American mustard and whole egg mayo to your’s great with charcoal chicken…you’ll love it!
    Great post!

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