Huauzontle (Chenopodium nuttalliae) was amongst the new-to-me crops to try this year in my backyard garden. Huauzontle is a tall plant native to Mexico, grown for its edible seed heads, which develop from inflorescences such as the one pictured at the top of this post. Its leaves are also edible, and turn bright red in the fall, which has given this herb the name of Red Aztec Spinach. It is in the same genus as lambsquarters (Chenopodium album), a very common weed in my area, growing and even looking very similar to each other; I sprouted my huauzontle seeds in a small paper cup (photo below, left) and marked the place where I transplanted the seedlings a few days later (photo below, right) so I would not pull them by mistake, taking them for the antagonistic look-alike weed:
It grows best in warm weather and in full sun. In the photos below: stages of growth in July (left) and last week (right). As a reference of how much it grew in that time, the same rock is shown in both pictures:
In Mexico, bunches of huauzontle seed heads are garnered fresh and promptly sold at markets, still attached to pieces of branch, usually about 15-20 cm long (6-8 inches, approx.; photo below, left, from https://worldcrops.org/crops/huauzontle). My plants look healthy, but their inflorescences only grew to about half that size (photo below, right):
I found a short report on huauzontle at the University of Massachusetts “Vegetable Notes” on-line library (2008), with the same results, attributed to longer days, compared to conditions in huauzontle’s native Mexico. I think in my case, it was also that my plants were left to the inclemency of the weather, and maybe did not get enough water at some point. I was still able to cook them as they are traditionally served in Mexico; in my next post, I will be sharing my recipe for Huauzontle Patties – Tortitas de huauzontle.
I am linking to Cee’s Flower of the Day (FOTD) Photo Challenge for September 18, 2019.