February 2004

Huazontle – Chenopodium berlandieri

Origin: Mexico




Also known as Red Aztec Spinach, Huazontle (wah-ZONT-lay) looks and tastes somewhat like broccoli. It is a wonderful gourmet green for serving your herbivores. But surprisingly Huazontle is a green that's not actually green because when the plant matures, the leaves turn a fiery red. The leaves resemble lambsquarter and can be eaten raw when young. After the Huazontle matures, the red leaves and immature seed head can be harvested for braising, or sautéing. The bright red color is retained after cooking.

This easy to grow annual prefers full to partial sun. Unlike other greens, Huazontle does well in warm weather without bolting. It takes between 30–40 days from germination to start harvesting the raw greens and approximately 60–100 days for mature leaves and tops.

As an interesting historical (and culinary) aside, Huazontle is an early example of fusion food. The Aztecs originally cultivated it . When the Spaniards arrived, bringing cheese to Mexico, a new dish was born. The plant's tender tips were stuffed with cheese, dipped in batter and fried. Sounds delicious to me.