Friday, July 9, 2010

Purslane & Welcome to Kristina

First of all I'd like to welcome Kristina. She is a student with the Sustainable Ag. program at UofM and will be working here for the next few weeks as part of her work/study program. She started last week and is not afraid to tangle with the many weeds that have grown with this favorable weather. She is helping Dave, Sheryl and I to keep things moving. Thanks!

Also, thanks to Kristina, we have purslane in the box for tomorrow's distribution. We'll also pick some for Wednesday's boxes. After that, we'll probably offer it as an optional item on the extras table. If you only pick up every other week and would like some, please let me know and I'll pick some for you. Anyway - Kristina has had this in the past and cooked up a panful for us for lunch today. We always try to eat some veggies so that we can all taste what we're growing. I had never had purslane. It's kind of like Lambs Quarter - yeah you can eat it, but why would you? Both are surprisingly excellent! Also, I've read quite a bit over the last few years that the plants that grow locally as "weeds" such as dandelion, purslane, lambs quarter, etc. contain many anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals which are very benefcial.

Here's how to prepare it:
  1. Remove the purslane from the bag. Cut off the roots. Remove any hay that might be in there. Soak to clean.
  2. Cut up the stalks in 1 - 3" pieces. Use the whole stem - no need to take the leaves off of the stem. The stems are a bit crunchy but they're not woody.
  3. Preheat a skillet with a little oil. Add a bit of garlic or onions or both and saute.
  4. Add the cleaned and cut purslane.
  5. Sprinkle in a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  6. Saute until wilted and slightly darker green (maybe 6 - 10 minutes on med. heat).
  7. Serve.
Very yummy - surprisingly. It's a bit like spinach and would probably be good in a stir fry. Enjoy!

Here's what "On Food and Cooking - The Science and Lore of The Kitchen" (Harold McGee) has to say about purslane (by the way - this is an excellent book if you're interested in the technical side of food):
"Purslane is a low-lying weed with fat stems and small thich leaves, which thrives in midsummer heat on neglected ground. It's a European native that has spread throughout the world. One nickname for purslane is pigweed, and the 19th century Englishman William Cobbett said it was suitable only for pigs and the French. But people in many countries enjoy its combination of tartness and soothing, mucilaginous smoothness, both raw in salads and added to meat and vegetable dishes during the last few minutes of cooking. There are now cultivated varieties with larger leaves shaded yellow and pink. Its qualities are similar to those of the cactus pad because both have adapted in similar ways to hot, dry habitats. Purslane is notable for its content of calcium, several vitamins, and an omega-3 fatty acid, linolenic acid."

Here's another interesting excerpt from the same book: "Cactuses, purslane, and other plants that live in hot, dry environments have developed a special form of photosynthesis in which they keep their pores closed during the day to conserve water, then open them at night to take in carbon dioxide, which they then store in the form of malic acid. During the day, they use the energy from sunlight to convert the malic acid to glucose. Pads harvested in the early morning therefore contain as much as 10 times more malic acid than pads harvested in the afternoon. The acid levels in the pads slowly drop after harvest, so the difference is less apparent after a few days."

Note: We harvested the purslane at around 2:30 in the afternoon.


Tricia said...

Thanks for the directions! I've often read that purslane is good to eat, but I've never seen detailed preparation instructions like that.

Prakash M. Nadkarni said...

Purslane grows in our garden (and most elsewhere) as a weed: it is a remarkably hardy plant. When harvesting, I just use a scissors and cut off the stems about 1/2 an inch above the ground, leaving the roots and a little piece of stem in the ground so that the plant can regenerate, which it does very well.

I just soak to clean any mud, then chop up the leaves plus stems coarsely, and use in a salad with vinegar (I prefer red wine or balsamic), olive oil, sliced onion, tomato slices, freshly ground pepper and a clove or two of freshly minced garlic. (Purslane is mildly salty, so I dont' find it necessary to add salt to the recipe.)

I agree with Harold McGee that when you harvest purslane in the early morning, the flavor is significantly more tangy, because of the malic acid content: however, purslane stays alive three or more days after it is picked (during which time it digests the malic acid), so if you like it tangy, you should use it as soon as possible.