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Common Name: Huauzontle
Chenopodium nuttalliae is an annual plant that can grow up to 0.60 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and source of materials.
The leaves and seeds of all members of this genus are more or less edible. However, many of the species in this genus contain saponins, though usually in quantities too small to do any harm. Although poisonous, saponins also have a range of medicinal applications and many saponin-rich plants are used in herbalism (particularly as emetics, expectorants and febrifuges) or as sources of raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry. Saponins are also found in a number of common foods, such as many beans.
Saponins have a quite bitter flavour and are in general poorly absorbed by the human body, so most pass through without harm. They can be removed by carefully leaching in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of raw foods that contain saponins.
Saponins are much more toxic to many cold-blooded creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish and make them easy to catch[
The plants also contain some oxalic acid, which in large quantities can lock up some of the nutrients in the food. However, even considering this, they are very nutritious vegetables in reasonable quantities. Cooking the plants will reduce their content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition[
Southern N. America - Mexico.
An easily grown plant, succeeding in most soils but disliking shade[
]. It prefers a moderately fertile soil[
Huauzontle was formerly commonly cultivated in Mexico for its edible seed and flowering shoots[
]. It is potentially a very productive crop[
]. Although it is said to require a fairly long growing season in order to crop well, plants grown in Cornwall in the cool wet summer of 1992 did very well[
]. Even with all the rain at the end of the summer a reasonable crop was harvested in September[
This species is closely related to quinoa, C. quinoa, and both might have originated from the same wild species[
]. Whilst that species has been widely cultivated as a seed crop, though, this species was grown more for its edible flowering stem[
]. Some modern works now see this species as no more than a sub-species of C. berlandieri.
Leaves - cooked. A mild flavoured spinach substitute[
]. The raw leaves should only be eaten in small quantities, see the notes above on toxicity.
Flower clusters - cooked[
]. Used like broccoli, they are considered a gourmet food[
Seed - cooked[
]. A mild flavour, it can be used as a staple food[
]. It can be used in all the ways that rice is used, either as a sweet or as a savoury dish. The seed should be soaked in water overnight and then thoroughly rinsed to wash off the bitter tasting saponins. Very nutritious and sustaining. The seed is fairly small but is easy to harvest.
Gold/green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant[
Seed - sow spring in situ. Germination is normally very rapid, but be careful not to weed out the seedlings because they look rather like the garden weed fat hen (C. album).