Who knew that our little lowly weed purslane is getting so much press these days. Maybe it hired a new publicity agent, or maybe it has a new movie coming out, but whatever the reason, I’m seeing it in all sorts of fantastic magazines. It was in last month’s Sunset magazine and now it’s in this months issue of Gourmet (by the way, does the photography in Gourmet make you swoon too? I adore each and every beautiful page. I won’t get into how their recipes don’t follow the seasons hardly at all, I’ll just hush up and admire.).
I posted one recipe for it a few months back. I loved that Purslane stew and I’ve made it again since I wrote about it. But I decided to try out Sunset’s Purslane & Cucumber & Yogurt salad. I like it okay, but if I had to make it again here’s how I’d do it:
Kendra’s Version of Sunset’s Purslane & Cucumber & Yogurt Salad:
1 Cucumber, seeded and diced
2 c. chopped purslane
2 Tbs. chopped mint
1 garlic clove mashed to a paste with 1 tsp. salt
2 c. plain yogurt
2 tbsp. olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
freshly ground black pepper
Oh, by the way, did you catch Scott’s Pesto Manifesto the other week? He’s worth listening to when it comes to cooking techniques. Although he works for the illustrious Chez Scott at the moment (a lovely little one table family-style joint in Sonoma) he used to cook for Piatti’s in Mill Valley and Left Bank in Larkspur (which I used to live in the apartments above before we met) so he knows what he’s talking about. His tip on blanching the basil or whatever leafy green you choose is the best. He didn’t have time this weekend to blanch our pesto and it turned out it’s usual shade of dark, gray green. Blanching it will really keep it’s lively green color.
Thanks also to Brittney of Eye on the Bay for featuring it on your blog!
Here’s an unusual read for Green Bean’s Bookworm Challenge.
I bet you never thought that weeds are really an indication of the nutrients in your soil. I never did. I just thought certain weeds grew where they grew because they just kept sprouting from the year before. But by changing the nutrient content of your soil can actually allow new weeds to grow and stop the growth of weeds you currently have. Interesting, isn’t it? I never would have thought. We learned this all in a book that Scott ordered called, “Weeds and why they grow” by Jay McCamen from Moses (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, Inc.)
The root systems of some weeds, especially perennials, can penetrate deep into the subsoil to loosen it. Some weed roots can go down into the soil as much as twenty feet, breaking up the soil and improving drainage and aeration. They also bring up minerals and make it possible for the root systems of other plants, such as vegetables, to use those minerals and natural aeration.
As I mentioned, you can identify problems in your soil by what weeds are growing in it. There is a detailed chart that lists almost every weed out there and the soil nutients that allow that weed to proser. Through reading this book and looking in our yard, we found that the prolific srouting of purslane, amaranth, dandelions and some others that we have a calcium deficiency. That would also explain our yearly battle with blossom end rot on our San Marzanos. So off to the nursery we went, and back we came with liquid calcium which the man working there said is the best way to apply calcium at this stage in the growing cycle.
So once we get our calcium problem fixed, will the purslane, amaranth and dandelions leave? Quite possibly. And in its place maybe red clover will arrive. How will it get there? Well weed seeds can lie dormant and viable in the soil for as long as 30, 50, even 70 years! They are just waiting for a spec of light and for their proper soil conditions to sprout. (I’m serious about that spec of light, a fraction of a second of sunlight will do to get it growing, which is why he recommends tilling at night.)
Another thing I learned is that a garden that is free from weeds is actually a very unhealthy garden. When very little weeds grow it means the soil is actually extremely unhealthy. So it’s a good thing if you have weeds. Healthy weeds mean a healthy soil.
I have this thing for weeds. I really like being able to eat them. I don’t know why. Maybe it appeals to my scrappy nature because they grow so easily that its truely like free food. Or maybe it appeals to my inner nutritionist because of all those extra antioxidents they carry to defend themselves. Or maybe it makes me feel like a pioneer in making do with what you have. But I like them. When I was my older sons age and in preschool our teacher would take us through her wilderness like backyard on exploritory walks and she would find the minors lettuce and let us eat it. Ever since then I never pass a grove of minors lettuce without picking some and enjoying it’s fresh taste.
So imagine my delight when I found out that our biggest weed bully, purslane, was edible. Purslane only comes out when the weather heats up and then it comes out with abundance, taking over every last inch that it can penetrate. Its one of the most common weeds in the world and I’ve heard that the one growing in our neck of the woods (or valley should I say) is called golden purslane. I like to eat it earlier in the spring when it’s taste is light and lemony. I find that as the plant matures it takes on a kind of soapy taste. It has high levels of iron and Omega 3s. And in Turkey they make a stew out of it. As soon as I read that recipe, I took our salad spinner basket (our favorite harvesting basket) and headed out to pick some. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of purslane and after picking a half basket full, I was only at half a pound. So you can really get rid of some weeds this way.
I washed it well followed the recipe, made the yogurt garlic sauce to go with, Scott poached a few eggs to go with and we had ourselves an incredible Sunday dinner. Really, it’s worth trying. And if you don’t have purslane where you live you can easily substitute spinach.
Purslane Stew Served with Yogurt and Garlic Sauce
from Classical Turkish Cooking
2 lbs. purslane
3 T. butter
1 c. chopped onion
1/4 lb. ground lamb or beef
1 tomato, chopped
1 c. stock or water
1/4 c. uncooked rice
salt & pepper
Heat butter in a large heavy pan and cook onions until lightly brown. Add meat and cook until it browns. Add tomato and cook for a minute longer. Then add purslane, cover the pot and let cook for about 10 minutes until the leave wilt. Stir in the stock or water, bring to a boil and add the rice. Season to your taste, cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Serve with Yogurt Garlic Sauce (2 cups of plain yogurt mixed with 2 t. crushed garlic, salt and pepper mixed together).