Huauzontle – Let’s Grow from Real Seeds

UPDATE March 2015
PA050017e lowresThis small piece started out in April 2013 as a simple expression of delight and excitement at being offered some huauzontle (Aztec broccoli) seeds by a friend and then planting them.

Just days after I was given the seeds though, I found out about the Seed Regulation being drafted by the European Commission, potentially threatening not only Europe’s small growers, seed savers and gardeners but also future plant biodiversity. This has now finally been withdrawn, but I have kept the updates in the post.

EU Seed Regulation formally withdrawn 7th March 2015
I have just heard from Arche Noah (Noah’s Ark – see below) that ‘the EU seed regulation has been formally withdrawn and is now truly history. “This is a great day for (seed) diversity,” says their email, “[and] we share this success with the more than half a million people who signed the petition against the draft.”

Update 14th March 2014
On 11th March this year (2014), the Seed Regulation was voted down by MEPs by a majority of 615 to 15 with 13 abstentions. Organisations such as Austria’s Global2000 and Arche Noah who had been campaigning intensely against the regulation for many months called for a celebration of the vote and quite rightly.

However, the Soil Association’s head of horticulture Ben Raskin reports that the proposal “has not [yet] been completely withdrawn by the Commission” which means that “many small growers, growers’ associations and gardeners at both a professional and amateur level” still stand to be affected by the legislation in the future. We need to remain vigilant. Read his comment here.

Meanwhile below (1) is my original post about huauzontle. The following short paragraphs (2) follow the Seed Regulation as it went through the EU process over the past year.

1. (April 2013)

HUAUZONTLE. I haven’t grown this plant – yet (as of 25 April 2013). I hadn’t heard of it until a few days ago when I spoke to Rose in Bungay and she offered me some seeds. But I really like some of those Aztec names, (it’s also called Aztec broccoli, even though it is a goosefoot rather than a crucifer).

HuauzontleAnd I have been planning to have a ‘Mexican garden’ this year. Several seeds of Cempoalxochitl have already sprouted, though I don’t know if they will come true to the ‘wild’ Oaxaca form of Tagetes erecta I was carefully cultivating over the years,  as at some point it got mixed with a yellow one from down the road, threatening to become a ‘wildivated’ Reydon form!

I have some Mexican Cigar plant Cuphea ignea given to me from Jenni in Bungay, and Toronjil (Agastache mexicana) and I’ve sown purple sunflower seeds, too. As well as Wild Tobacco (Nicotiana rustica and Jasmine Tobacco (N. alata).

Then there’s Epazote from last years’ amazing plants. But they haven’t come up yet. And chillis and tomatoes (Nahautl: tomatl). Though of course no chocolatl!

This post on Huauzontle from Zester Daily based in Southern California, really made my mouth water! I must get those seeds from Rose…

2. Late April 2013 – 11 March 2014

The Huauzontle seeds Rose bought (see below) come from a company in Wales called The Real Seed Catalogue. When I checked out their website (just after Rose gave me the seeds) I found this URGENT CALL FOR ACTION – NEW EU SEED LAW – to ban all traditional vegetable varieties unless registered and licenced! (4th Jan 2015: The page linked to above gives regular updates on the current status of the draft laws – latest 19th December 2014). This law is still currently under discussion with MEPs meeting again in mid-January (see updates below), so do read and respond and let’s make sure that great places like The Real Seed Catalogue can continue their business and gardeners continue to be free to choose which flowers and vegetables they want to grow from a rich diversity of seeds. From Real Seeds’ website:

“You’ll find no F1 hybrids or genetically modified seed here – just varieties that do really well and taste great when grown by hand on a garden scale. The name of the catalogue reflects what we are working to provide: real seeds for real gardeners wanting to grow proper vegetables.

Many are rare heirlooms, and because all are open-pollinated (non-hybrid) , you can save your own seed for future years, using the instructions we supply. There’s no need to buy new seed every year!”


7th May 2013: Due to hard lobbying and hundreds of thousand of people writing and sending emails in objection to the EU’s “Plant Reproductive Material Law” (see below) some significant last-minute changes were written in the night before the law was presented yesterday (6th May). These changes mitigated some of the law’s more dire potential effects for seed savers and growers: “We must [however] remain vigilant to be sure it is not changed for the worse as it goes through the EU, and then is translated into UK laws.”

November 2013: Indeed, many of those mitigating changes were weakened or ironed out, so the dangers are still present. Read The Real Seed Catalogue’s urgent updates here.

January 2014: By December 2013, intense lobbying of MEPs by small growers, gardeners, seed companies, nurseries and plant lovers resulted in 1,144 suggested alterations to the law. Many MEPs felt the law was simply ‘unpassable’. MEPs are meeting again in the middle of this month (January 2014). You still have time to write and voice your support for seed diversity and freedom. Here is a list of the MEPs.

Seedy Business is an article about the draft seed law I wrote for Issue 3 of the  Transition Free Press newpaper (Autumn edition 2013).

Oh, and the picture at the top of this post is what one of the Huauzontles I grew last year (with the seed from The Real Seed Catalogue via Rose) looked like on 5th October. Over six feet tall, glowing and packed with seed for this year!

Images: Huauzontle (Aztec Broccoli, Chenopodium berlandieri) by Mark Watson; Ready to cook, Huauzontle by Pabs004 (Wikipedia); Huauzontle by Jim Pisarowicz (Wikipedia)


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by akgpodcast on 27/04/2013 at 9:39 AM

    Huauzontle is on the list of things I want to grow, but I haven’t got round to it yet. I can thoroughly recommend Real Seeds, though, they are an excellent company.


  2. Posted by Debi King on 31/05/2016 at 7:59 PM

    I’m trying the real seed companies veges this year for the first time, so far they have germinated well and are growing well, look forward to tasting them.

    Do check out Link4Growth, a community set on joining great projects together.


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