Huauzontles and I didn’t have the most auspicious beginning. Last fall, if you recall
, I bought a bunch solely because I liked the way they looked. (A bushy green amaranth plant
is hard to resist.)
I didn't know that you weren't supposed to eat the stems, and so I threw in a mess of raw huauzontles, with stems, into a pan of roasted butternut squash. The result reminded me of the weeds my mom used to make me pull as a kid.
Lately, huauzontles have become one of my favorite ingredients, precisely because they’re so finicky. This is a vegetable that makes you work for its love. You have to shape it, prune it, peel off its bitter leaves and spongy flower pods. At the end, if you've done your work correctly, you've got a pile of flower pods that feel like soft, airy sand. They taste like a milder version of broccoli.
Crayton prepares the huauzontle for its bike-ride home, after buying it at the tianguis
You might be thinking: Am I really going to do all this work for something that tastes like broccoli? Shouldn’t it taste... better? Here's the thing about huauzontles: it's not just about the taste. It's about the transformation, and being close to your food. Huauzontles require human interaction. Because of your hard work, it's you
who transforms this grassy, wild stalk into a pile of airy crumbs that can suit just about anything. I've eaten huauzontles in pasta sauce and tomatillo salsa, and shaped into fluffy, small croquettes; later this week, I'm going to stuff it inside a chicken breast, just to see what happens. Because I want more people to appreciate this strange-but-lovable vegetable, I'm launching the Week of Huauzontles
on The Mija Chronicles, which is a series of posts dedicated to The Huauz. (As I'm now calling it, affectionately.) First up is a step-by-step guide on how to clean and prepare the huauzontle for cooking. Later this week I'll post some recipes, including the truly awesome huauzontle queso dip with chorizo verde. Even if you're not a huauz fan, I hope you at least appreciate the versatility of this tree-like vegetable. More coming tomorrow!