Wild Recipes

Colombian-Style Ajiaco (Chicken Soup with Galinsoga, Potatoes, and Corn)

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The first time I met galinsoga (also called gallant soldier, soldier weed, or guascas), it was a tiny weed peering up from the gravel of my driveway — with a cheery green color, hairy leaves, and tiny white and yellow flowers. Now I see it all over the place  — it’s considered an invasive weed, especially in agricultural fields. But like so many weeds, it deserves a place at the table.

I was delighted to learn about this plant in Samuel Thayer’s Incredible Wild Edibles, and was further inspired by the online foraging community (particularly Alan Bergo) to make a very special soup — a riff on a traditional Colombian dish called ajiaco, in which galinsoga is the subtle star. The mountains of Bogotá are the home of galinsoga and a vast array of potato varieties, and this form of ajiaco is commonly enjoyed as a Sunday meal in the region.

Ajiaco is a celebration of plant foods. Although field corn (hominy) and native Andean potatoes are the authentic add-ins, I used what I had on hand: Virginia-grown sweet corn and new red potatoes, plus some organic Yukon Golds. Sources say that criollo potatoes, a small yellow type, should be present to dissolve and create a creamy broth — but in their absence, I froze the blanched Yukon Golds, thawed them, and simmered them in the soup for an hour or so before coaxing them into a purée with my immersion blender. The result was a potato revelation. 

To have fun with flavor depth, I charred the onions and corn cobs and added some homemade smoked poultry bone broth to this recipe, along with dried cilantro and powdered sweet onion leaves I made in the spring. I used large whole chicken wings in this, but you could use bone-in chicken breasts or leg quarters, wild turkey, or even rabbit.

The galinsoga, red potatoes, and garlic I used are from the organic vegetable farm where I’ve been working over the summer. Walking along rows of crops, it didn’t take long to gather a beautiful bunch of herbage, which I dehydrated to get the key ingredient for the soup. Ajiaco is perfect for dinner after a long workday. The galinsoga has a unique flavor similar to its aster relatives artichoke and sunflower. Serve it with traditional garnishes: sour cream, capers, and sliced avocado. I like cilantro lime rice as a side.

Serving Size: 8 servings
Time to make: 2 hours
Special Equipment: Dehydrator, mesh strainer, immersion blender, stock pot
Also works with: Wild turkey, rabbit

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Colombian-Style Ajiaco (Chicken Soup with Galinsoga, Potatoes, and Corn)

Recipe by Heidi Chaya
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Course: Wild Recipes


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  • 2 -3 lbs bone-in poultry

  • 1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes (previously blanched, frozen, and thawed)

  • 1 lb small red potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks

  • 3 medium white onions, halved

  • ¼ cup dried galinsoga (guascas) – see Note below

  • 4 small ears of sweet corn, cut into thirds

  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed

  • Water (or chicken stock, or poultry bone broth) – enough to cover ingredients

  • 2 dried bay leaves

  • 1 tbs dried cilantro

  • 1 tbs dried onion leaf powder (optional – can sub chopped scallions)

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Fresh cilantro, capers, sour cream, and avocado to garnish

  • Sides (Optional)
  • Cilantro lime rice

  • Roasted chicken or turkey


  • Note: You’ll need to pick enough galinsoga to yield at least ¼ cup of dried guascas. I like to grab a flower bouquet-sized bunch to be safe since wild plants are not uniform. Pluck the leaves, flowers, and soft stems from the plants, gently wash and dry them, and dehydrate them until they crumble easily. I crush them in my hand/use a wooden spoon in a mesh strainer over a bowl until the leaf powder falls into the bowl. Discard the remaining flowers and stems.

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Season meat with salt and pepper, and roast for about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  • While the meat browns, smash the garlic and char the onions and corn cob pieces in a hot cast iron skillet. Set aside.
  • Add browned meat, Yukon Gold potatoes, onions, bay leaves, dried cilantro, galinsoga, garlic, and optional onion leaf powder/scallions to a large stock pot. Cover with water and bone broth or stock (if using).
  • Bring soup to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 1.5 hours or until the meat pulls easily from the bone.
  • Remove the meat and Yukon Gold potatoes from the pot with tongs and put in separate bowls. When cooled sufficiently, remove the meat from the bones and return it to the pot. Save the bones for future bone broth.
  • Use an immersion blender to purée the Yukon Gold potatoes, adding a little broth from the soup pot as needed.
  • Return potato mixture to the pot with corn cob pieces and red potatoes, stirring well.
  • Bring soup back to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until red potatoes are tender and corn is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve soup garnished with sour cream, capers, fresh cilantro, and sliced avocado with rice or roast poultry on the side.

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Heidi Chaya

Heidi Chaya is a food journalist, farmhand, and avid home cook. Her experiences living and working in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley provide her with many opportunities to expand her culinary horizons and continue to learn and grow through fishing, foraging, and hunting.

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