Aztec Spinach (Huauzontle)
Huauzontle (Chenopodium berlandieri nuttaliae – aka Aztec spinach, cuazontles, huazontles) is a Mexican vegetable that is a relative to goosefoot and quinoa and looks a bit like broccoli rabe. Its inedible stems bear clusters of small edible green buds with a light bitter taste sometimes compared to spinach.
Huauzontle is frequently fried in fritters (often with Mexican cheese), but the buds can also be steamed or boiled and eaten (off the stems) as you would other green vegetables. It’s consumed year round in several parts of Mexico, but is particularly popular during Lent.
Store huauzontle in your refrigerator.
RECIPES & TIPS
Huauzontle stems, fully grown leaves & stalks are considered inedible and are generally removed before cooking. The thinnest stems are sometimes left attached for some recipes, but aren't intended to be consumed.
Young huauzontle leaves can be cooked similarly to spinach, but by the time the plant has put forth the prized buds, the leaves on the plant are usually unpleasantly bitter and should be discarded.
Huauzontle’s dense clusters of buds can hide dirt & grit, so it’s important to rinse them thoroughly before cooking.
Huauzontle buds are frequently steamed or blanched, wrapped around/pressed into cheese (usually queso oaxaca) then egg battered & fried into fritters (tortas de huauzontle). Huauzontle fritters are often served covered with sauce (usually a mild chile sauce or tomato sauce) or with dipping sauce on the side. Traditionally the thinnest stems are left on for this application (for use as a handle), but the buds can be removed from the stems and pressed into the cheese to make croquettes instead.
Huauzontle buds can also be removed from their stems and steamed or boiled (5-10 minutes) until tender for use as you would other green vegetables - as a vegetable side dish (with butter, salt & pepper) in salads, in soups, with eggs, etc.