Huazontle/Pigweed /Chenopodium Berlandieri

You’ve gotta respect Huazontle. Chenopodium Berlandieri leaves and stems are edible and absolutely delicious, with a flavor that can be compared to spinach or chard. Contains large amounts of calcium and Vitamin A and compare in nutritive value to approximately one cup of milk or one serving of spinach, also contains riboflavin, Vitamin C, and protein. Young foliage can be gathered and consumed raw. Goosefoot, huauzontle, quelite, and bledo are common names for a leafy plant that Indian tribes, indeed civilizations throughout the Americas relied upon for food. The common names refer to several annual species in the genus Chenopodium that produce thousands of seed-like fruits on a single flower stalk, as well as vitamin and mineral-packed leaves that were harvested for greens. There are dozens of species that grow in Europe and the Americas – about 29 in Texas. Huazontle belong to the family of Chenopodiums, which translates as ‘Goosefoot’ in allusion to the shape of the leaves, which some botanist has fancied to resemble the webbed feet of geese. This family of plants, though humble in appearance, includes such luminaries as Quinoa, the fabled grain of the Incas, Epazote, the Mexican bean spice and ‘Good King Henry’, a well-known potherb of the Old World.

Another species, Chenopodium berlandieri, is one of four plants that were actually domesticated in the Eastern Woodlands of North America prior to the introduction and wide utilization of corn (maize). The oldest examples of domesticated Chenopodium berlandieri predate 3500 B.P. The third domesticate, Chenopodium berlandieri subsp. nuttalliae (Huauzontle) was grown in Mexico, and is now grown commercially for its colorful (green and red) leafy foliage. Served in salads at restaurants, it now goes by the moniker, Red Aztec Spinach. The Aztec actually utilized different cultivars of this plant for the greens and the abundant fruits that were produced on tall flower stalks.

The wild type of Chenopodium berlandieri is the best studied of all the members of the genus. The foliage is rich in calcium and vitamin A, comparable to spinach. Nutritional studies are not available for wild-type seeds of Chenopodium, but studies of quinoa indicate it is comparable to wheat in energy and superior in protein because it contains more lysine and a well-balance suite of amino acids. It lacks gluten, a common allergen found in wheat. It is also higher in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc than any of the cereal grasses (rice, wheat, barley, oats, or corn/maize).

Aztecs prepared high protein dishes using the immature bright red seed heads and leaves. Although cultivation of the species died out in eastern North America, the plant continues to be grown as a domesticated crop in Mexico, though its cultivation has been declining. There are three varieties of the subspecies which are grown as a pseudocereal, as a leaf vegetable, and for its broccoli-like flowering shoots, respectively. Huazontle grow just about everywhere. They’re found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. They grow in fields, forests, sidewalks. Huazontles are a great example of modern society’s ability to pick and choose forage weeds.

Huazontles in Morita Sauce (appetizers)
1 pound huazontle bud clusters (the tops, with stems and leaves removed)
1 cup herb seasoning stuffing mix
½ cup Oaxaca cheese, shredded
2 tablespoon maize flour
3 well beaten eggs
1/2 tsp Thyme
Vegetable oil for deep frying

Blanch Huazontle florets in boiling water for 20 minutes, cool and gently press out excess water, between paper towels, being careful not to break up the bud clusters. Combine all ingredients and set aside. Then, beat egg whites until stiff; add maize flour until you create a luscious batter. Form into balls about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Then drape the balls in the batter and shallow fry until crisp and golden. Fry 3 or 4 balls at a time, taking care not to crowd the pan too much. Cook until golden, about 4 to 6 minutes; drain on paper towels.

Smoky Red Morita Sauce

6 chiles morita, deveined
1 garlic clove, diced
2 jitomate saladet, diced
1/4 onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chicken broth


Rinse tomatoes and chiles and let dry. Take the moritas and cook them in a hot dry cast-iron skillet until they inflate and start to pop a little (about two minutes). Into the cast-iron skillet, pour water over the chiles and allow them to soften and become plumper, which will take about half an hour. Meanwhile, stir the whole tomatillos in another skillet until they blister and black spots appear. Immediately transfer them to a blender. Place the garlic, onion, chicken broth, moritas in the blender, and puree until smooth. It will be a deep red color with lots of seeds. Put the mix in a medium pot and let simmer for 10 minutes. Proceed with caution when eating this salsa -yes, it lights up your mouth upon entry, but you’ll soon see that after the initial spark it swiftly cools down to a slow simmer. Just make sure to keep a glass of water handy, because this sauce can get mucho caliente!

Gente bella, más fácil imposible!.

Huazontle Stuffed Patties

3 cups chopped Huazontle, previously cooked
½ cup jalapenos, seeded and finely diced
½ cup onion soup mix
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2/3 cup breadcrumbs (optional)
2 cups grated monterey jack cheese
1 tablespoon Amaranth flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoon olive oil

In a bowl mix together all ingredients except cheese. Shape the Huazontle into 8 equal 1/2-inch-thick patties. Make a slight indentation in the center of 4 of the patties to hold the cheese. Divide the monterey jack cheese into 4 equal portions, shape into disks, and set a disk in each of the 4 indentations. Top the cheese with the remaining patties and gently but firmly seal the edges to completely encase the cheese. Season the outside of the stuffed burgers lightly with salt and pepper. Grill the patties over direct medium-high heat for about 4-5 minutes per side or so, until they’re crispy-crusted all over. Don’t press on the patties while they’re cooking—you want to keep the cheese inside the burger, not on your grill. Do not repeatedly flip, flip, because they will fall apart. These patties are great with Jitomate Sauce or topped with dijon vinaigrette. Place the patties in the sauce.  Do not stir but just let them sit on top of the sauce. Enjoy your Pigweed!

Salsa de Jitomate

3 cascabel chiles, fried lightly in oil, seeded and deveined
2 ancho chiles, fried lightly in oil, seeded and deveined
6 tomatillos, husks removed, roasted on a comal or griddle
2 tomatoes, roasted on a comal or griddle, seeds removed
1 small white onion, halved and roasted on a comal or griddle
2 large garlic cloves, roasted on a comal or griddle, then peeled
piloncillo or dark brown sugar to taste
salt to taste

Place all ingredients in a mortar and grind to a semi-smooth consistency, or use a blender. Makes 2 cups. Heat the oil in a deep pot and add the blended ingredients. Bring to a boil and boil uncovered for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If the tomatoes are acidic, add an additional tablespoon of sugar and continue cooking for 3 minutes.

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