We have a new organic crop making its debut at our Moss Valley farm and landing in veg boxes this week, fresh from the field.
Aztec broccoli – traditional name ‘huauzontle’ – originally hails from Mexico and dates back to pre-Columbian times. According to archaeological evidence, the ancient Aztecs had ceremonial as well as culinary uses for this excellent plant. Huauzontle fell out of favour after the Spaniards came (their loss!) but is now enjoying a renaissance as a cooking green, and rightly so. It is rich in protein and very, very tasty.
Despite its English nickname and slight structural resemblance to sprouting broccoli, it’s not a brassica. It’s a member of the goosefoot family along with quinoa and amaranth. The young stems, leaves, flower buds and seeds are all edible. You can read more about growing Aztec broccoli (and buying seeds) from the wonderful Real Seeds company.
On the tastebuds, there are hints of tenderstem broccoli and spinach. I also detected a slightly nutty quality. Others have mentioned flavours of asparagus and green beans. What makes huauzontle special though is a winning combination of taste and texture – it retains its integrity after light cooking and has great ‘mouth feel’.
How to cook it? Keep it simple, at least the first time you try it, to get the unalloyed flavour. One way is to blanch the sprigs whole in boiling salted water for a minute, then add a bit of butter or drizzle with your favourite oil. Alternatively, stir-fry it. The instructions below don’t merit the label ‘recipe’! They’re just some pointers.
Serve as a side-dish for a Mexican-style main. Try a spicy black bean, tomato and onion stew, with plain rice. We’re going to experiment with a frittata too. Buen provecho!