The Veg Plot

Huauzontle – a Mexican success story

huauzontle shoots aztec broccoli

2012’s miserable weather has been unkind on one of our Mexican veg, the mouse melon, but another has taken to our allotment like a worm to tequila.

Huauzontle, aka Aztec broccoli, was sown only six weeks ago as a catch crop and we’re already tucking into its healthy latin leaves.

How to grow huauzontle
These plants grow rapidly and are prone to bolting if sown too early, so they’re best sown in late summer and, judging by the soil that is holding our crops, they don’t seem too fussy about nutrient quality.

The seeds displayed an impressive germination rate and, although there were some losses to slugs, their suffering was nothing compared to the decimation experienced by their neighbouring cauliflowers.

Once established they’re trouble free and soon take on a similar plant structure to purple sprouting broccoli, with a main central stem surrounded by further leafy side shoots, all topped with tightly packed flower heads.

Harvesting and cooking huauzontle
Before too long the flower heads will shot skywards and show off millions of tiny flower buds. These are traditionally battered, fried and served with cheese as some bizarre looking* Mexican fritter. But we’re currently dining on the young shoots and leaves.

These are cooked like regular broccoli – and while the initial smell isn’t too encouraging, the final results are superb. They have a delicate broccoli flavour with a hint of a runner bean to them (no, really) and their texture is amazing. It seems that no amount of boiling will reduce them to a spinachy mess, giving them a good, soft bite throughout.

Seeds sown: Huauzontle (aka Aztec broccoli), The Real Seed Catalogue

*See comments for the great controversy this description has caused…


  • I have been growing huauzontle for years and it’s a great favourite in our house (even with the kids!).
    We find it’s akin to spinach in flavour bit much more robust. Makes an excellent curry with potatoes. Holds its shape better than spinach and is full of macro nutrients and vitamins.
    A really easy veg to grow but make sure you pick regularly to get the best out of it. Pick the young shoots before they flower for the best tenderness and flavour.
    Have fun!

    • Pleased to hear the kids like it as well.
      I didn’t grow any last year… might order a packet of seeds right now!

  • We love it. Don’t know why the popular tortitas de huauzontle (“fritters”) are described as “bizarre”. Nothing weird about the preparation. Maybe the frying is unhealthy, but certainly not odd or strange.

    • Hi Norma
      Apologies if my ‘bizarre’ description offended. Being so unfamiliar with the vegetable and its cooking methods I relied on internet searches to see what the ‘fritters’ looked like and most of the ones did look bizarre! Now I know they’re actually tortitas it makes more sense. Next time I grow some I’ll try out the dish.

  • I’m about to sow my first hauzontle seeds, good to read it succeeds. Am in Scotland so plan to sow in pans and transplant later – maybe some direct sown as an experiment? Is it an annual or any chance of it perenniating? Good to read your information, thanks!

    • I would definitely try a direct sow experiment as it’s the only way I’ve grown them so can’t say how successful they would be to transplant seedlings (although I’m sure they’ll be fine). And I’ve only grown them as an annual and haven’t given them a chance to self seed! Good luck

  • I arrived here because I was looking for ways to cook this vegetable. We have grown this for the first time this year with great success. However we have yet to try eating it as we have been away for nearly a month. When we came home and saw it our first thought was that it looked very much like Orache but it seems to have a different scientific name. However when I checked I found they are both in the “Goosefoot” family. Apparently also grown as a grain crop in Mexico.

    • Thanks for the information.
      That piece was written a few years ago and it has been a while since I grew them. Might have to give them another go next year. My cooking with them didn’t get any more adventurous than lightly boiling and using as a side – but simple is usually best.
      Hope you enjoy your harvest and if you unearth any decent recipes then please let us know.

  • I’ve been growing huauzontle (here in the new world) for 2 years and comparing their characteristics to their old-world sister, lamb’s quarters. As to culinary value, huauzontle is generally superior if you can get enough of it, having slightly nicer-tasting leaves (often red) and seeds with better taste as well (at least for the more domesticated varieties). The huauzontle I planted to start with, the lamb’s quarters just happens whether you want it or not, so I’ve chosen to eat it or move it out of the way. Huauzontle is technically native here but seems to be at a disadvantage. My guess so far is that huauzontle is better adapted to hotter climates, while lamb’s quarters is near unstoppable here in the mid-Atlantic region.

    Both species have the interesting characteristic of producing many seeds and having them sprout at many different times through the year and across multiple years. While some plants carefully sprout at a specific soil temperature, these seeds try their luck at a variety of temperatures in the hopes that some will end up succeeding, this year or next, and since they produce many small seeds it typically works well. They do need some bare soil to have a chance.

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