Huauzontles, botanical name Chenopodium nuttalliae, also called huazontles or Cuazontles, is a member of the goosefoot family along with quinoa
, lamb's quarters, purslane and amaranth. It is an herbaceous plant grown for its buds and seeds.
Huauzontle, Chenopodium nuttalliae, is a Mexican vegetable related to the common American weed goosefoot, that vaguely resembles broccoli although the stems are much thinner and support fewer of the leaves.
Huauzontles is distinctive in its appearance. When growing in the field or garden the plant grows upright branches with red tinted green leafy stems which produce flower clusters that have the appearance of baby broccoli buds. The buds sprout from tiny branches upward and outward from the plant's stems. One of huauzontles most noticeable features is its sharp herbaceous aroma which intensifies in close proximity. The flavor is also unique, with notes of pepper, spinach
and cruciferous undertones reminiscent of broccoli
. Only the buds and seeds are suitable for fresh eating as the fibrous nature and unfavorable flavor of the stems allows only for eating cooked. Mature plants produce edible flowers.
The most common way to eat Huauzontles is in the dish, tortas de huauzontle, where the buds and stems are boiled, drained, battered and fried, salads, covered in cheese and then bathed in a cheese, cream based or tomato sauce. Less traditional preparations are left to the imagination of the cook.Alternatively, huauzontles can be encased in an egg batter and deep fried with a stick of salty Mexican cheese. The buds can be sauteed in butter or olive oil, served alongside fried eggs for breakfast and substituted within recipes calling for broccoli, adding to soups, gratins or pastas. Favorable pairings include cheese, cream, chiles, bacon, cured meats such as pancetta and prosciutto, lemon, lime, cumin, light-bodied vinegars, eggs, garlic, hard cheeses such as parmesan and pecorino or fresh cheeses such as mozzarella, chevre and feta. The dried seeds can be ground into flour or mixed with flour for preparing bread.
The huazontle bud clusters were cut from the stems, leaving a few inches of stem, which we held to eat it. The vegetable was steamed, then stuffed with Oaxaca cheese that Lourdes pushed into the clusters. She squeezed each bunch to hold it together, then dipped it in batter and fried it.
A few years after that cooking lesson, I had a more sophisticated version at a high end restaurant, where the buds were removed from the stems completely and made into croquettes. This was a less informal way to prepare the vegetable but it was far less messy to eat, and didn't leave behind strings of what look like green dental floss.
Both versions are delicious, and traditionally served with tomato or pasilla chile sauce. In the Yucatan, huazontle tops are boiled, cooled and mixed with cooked, cooled and sliced new potatoes, dressed with a vinaigrette and served as a salad.Nutrition
Nutritionally, huazontle and other chenopodium are important elements in a corn based diet, providing essential amino acids that corn is lacking. Huazontle is high in fiber and protein
, as well as calcium
and vitamins A
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