Eat Your Weedies!

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Weeds can add to a delicious dinner!
Weeds can add to a delicious dinner!

Our summers in Baja are not conducive to growing spinach; it quickly bolts to seed. Our weather does encourage many, many weeds. A few years ago I noticed a plant that grew happily everywhere and one of my Mexican friends asked me if I was growing it on purpose to eat? What?! Growing it on purpose to eat? She told me that it is called Verdolagas in Spanish and is especially loved as an addition to morning eggs.

I decided to try it and discovered that, indeed, it is delicious! In English, the lovely little weed is called Purslane and is a member of the portulaca family. It is a succulent plant with small oval leaves, little yellow flowers, and extremely tiny black seeds. It has sort of a lemony taste. I just love the idea of eating my weeds! It feels like I am getting even!

Once I started eating my purslane, I did a little research and discovered not only are there several ways to use it in recipes but it has a very high value of Omega-3. Delicious and healthy too! Who could ask for more? Well, it does grow like a weed!

Freshly harvested purslane
Freshly harvested purslane

Today, I decided that there is just too much purslane taking over the gardens! It especially loves to grow under my citrus trees where there is regular irrigation. I pulled up a lot! (And there is plenty more out there!)

I found an interesting Turkish recipe online here:

http://asonomagarden.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/purslane-stew/

I tried it out with a few adaptations. It turned out so delicious!

Here are the ingredients I used:

Fresh purslane is the basis for dinner tonight
Fresh purslane is the basis for dinner tonight

To prepare my purslane, I picked and rinsed it thoroughly. I removed the thicker stems and the flowering ends that were harder (they have seeds in them). I put those away for pickling tomorrow. The tender stems and leaves are what I want for this recipe. The photo above shows the part I used for this recipe and is about half of what I actually picked. It weighs over two pounds. The little green thing in the middle of the photo is an Italian frying pepper that I added to the recipe.

Because I had harvested from some of the plants previously, they had thickened stems and were producing seeds. Purslane seed is extremely tiny! The seeds fell to the bottom of the dishpan I used to rinse the plants in. I poured off most of the water, and then I poured the last of the water (and the seeds) through my gold coffee filter for my coffeemaker. It was the only thing I could think of that is fine enough to save the seeds. I know I won’t need them to reseed my garden, but I am planning to dry the seeds to use in baking, sort of like minuscule poppy seeds.

Anyway, back to the recipe that I used for tonight’s dinner:

Turkish Style Purslane

2 lbs. purslane, coarsely chopped
3 T. olive oil
1/4 c. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 lb. ground turkey breast
1 tomato, chopped
3 T. chopped green pepper
3 c. stock or water
1 c. uncooked rice
salt & pepper

Heat oil in a large pot and sauté the ground turkey breast, crumbling it as it begins to turn grey. Add onion, garlic, and green pepper and sauté until the onion begins to become translucent. Add rice and sauté until it begins to become translucent. Add tomatoes and purslane, and cook until the leaves begin to wilt. Add salt and pepper and water or stock. Cover, bring to a boil, lower the heat and steam for 20 minutes, or until the rice is done.

Although, my photo shows yogurt in it, I didn’t actually use it. When we tasted this dish, we decided that it would be perfect with just the addition of some sliced fresh cucumbers.

If your garden isn’t home to a plentiful patch of purslane, and you can’t find it in your local Farmers’ Market, you could substitute fresh spinach. If you do, you can add a little grated lemon peel or lemon juice to add that lemony tang that purslane has.

Try it!

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