Forage Albuquerque

In season through

Native range:

Kochia (sometimes incorrectly called "ragweed") is our less famous tumbleweed relative. This common weed is little-known summer delicacy when cooked, with a unique flavor compared to grape leaves, olive oil, or nori.

Kochia needs to be thoroughly cooked to be palatable and safe to eat. Boil it briefly or fry it for a while (10+ minutes). When fully cooked, it changes color and will become soft if boiled. If it still tastes bitter, it's undercooked.

Plants can be fibrous. To harvest, gently strip off leaves and small stems. If a stem breaks off easily, it will be soft and good eating. If a stem requires being roughly torn off, it will be fibrous and stringy. Blending in a food processor after boiling can further reduce fibrousness.

Kochia is widespread and easy to find. It grows in the bosque, gardens, sidewalk cracks and alleyways. It prefers disturbed soil and is often found growing with tumbleweeds and goatheads and seasonally swapping places with khardal.

When young, kochia is easily confused with our native purple aster (Dieteria canescens), especially when small. Look closely at leaf margins to differentiate them. Kochia leaves are also slightly fuzzy.

Kochia flowers
Those tiny flowers along kochia stems release wind-borne pollen, ensuring the plant's genetic diversity. Unfortunately, some human immune systems don't appreciate it!

Kochia is a hyperaccumulator of lead. Avoid harvesting it near roads or gas stations.

Kochia saag
Kochia saag paneer, after boiling and blending.

In its native China and Japan, its cultivated for food and as an ornamental, and seeds are also eaten. Kochia was introduced to the US as an ornamental around 1900. Unfortunately, its food use isn''t widely known in the US, where it's usually regarded as a useless weed, or animal fodder at best.

Chickens eating kochia
Kochia is a favorite food of chickens, perhaps because it is high in protein

Like its relatives amaranth and tumbleweed, kochia uses C4 photosynthesis, allowing it to grow more quickly and with less water than other plants.