Saturday, July 29, 2017

EAT YOUR WEEDS!


My aerobics teacher, Reme, came into morning gym class with bags of weeds, offering them to anyone willing to try. “Verdolaga,” she said. “It grows wild in my garden. I use the leaves in salads.” I pulled one of the glossy leaves off a stem and tasted. A little tart, nice.


“Do you use it in traditional cooking?” I asked. “No, not really. People feed it to the animals, but don’t cook with it.” 




Purslane (verdolaga) is an edible wild green often considered a weed. (Photo by Reme Valenzuela.)


An on-line search revealed that verdolaga is purslane, a weed, an herb, a wild green. It’s used in Greek and Middle Eastern cooking, one of many wild herbs used in salads and cooked dishes. The Mexicans favor it, braised with pork or chicken in a green chile sauce with tomatillos.

In a cookbook from the Valencia region I discovered a recipe with purslane, in "ensaladas de los frailes"—the monks’ salad. It calls for three kinds of wild greens, verdolagues tenders (tender purslane), camarroges (bitter wild chicory) and lletsons (cerraja in castellano; sow thistle in English) mixed with canned tuna, black cuquello olives, olive oil, black pepper and salt.

I also discovered that verdolaga, common purslane (portulaca oleracea) is a real superfood, rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals and amazingly high in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acid. A purslane salad and a heap of sardines (also rich in Omega-3) would be a real heart-protective meal. Eat your weeds, kids!

Both leaves and stems of purslane are edible.

Pinch off leaves to use in salads. They are glossy on the top side, quite fleshy.

Wild purslane grows in lawns, along roadsides, in fields. It should be picked from places where it’s not subject to pollution or pesticides. (Hey, it’s growing in my garden too!) It may turn up at farmers’ markets too, as it seems to be trending. Stems, leaves and yellow flowers are edible. Place in a bowl of water and swish them around. Drain. They can be used raw or cooked. I used the leaves in a salad, combining them with watermelon, cucumber and feta cheese. I made a traditional vegetable dish, called zarangollo, cooking purslane with the vegetables.

Purslane leaves add a mild citric taste to a salad of watermelon and cucumber.


Chopped purslane cooks with potatoes and zucchini in zarangollo, a Murcia dish.

Serve the zarangollo on toast as a tapa.

Salad with Purslane, Watermelon and Cucumber
Ensalada de Verdolaga con Sandía y Pepino





The salt in the dressing draws the liquid out of the watermelon and cucumber. Either add the salt, oil and lemon juice to the salad immediately before serving. Or, mix it all together and refrigerate. When ready to serve, use a slotted spoon to scoop the salad out of the accumulated juices.

1 cup seeded and cubed watermelon
1 cup diced cucumber
1 cup purslane leaves
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of oregano
¼ cup diced feta cheese
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Combine the watermelon, cucumber and purslane in a bowl. Add the scallions, salt, pepper, oregano, feta cheese, olive oil and lemon juice.

Vegetable Shake-Up with Purslane
Zarangollo con Verdolaga



Zarangollo is a popular dish in the Murcia region (eastern Spain). It usually consists of zucchini and potatoes cooked with onions in olive oil and scrambled with eggs. It´s served as a tapa or light supper dish. This version has wild purslane added to the vegetables.

Serves 4.

1-2 cups chopped purslane, leaves and stems
¼ cup olive oil
3 cups diced potatoes
½ cup chopped spring onions
2 cups diced zucchini
1 tablespoon chopped red bell pepper
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
Toast to serve

Blanch the purslane in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and reserve.

Heat the oil in a cazuela or large skillet. Add the potatoes and cook them, covered, stirring frequently, on medium heat 10 minutes. They do not need to brown.

Add the onions, zucchini, bell pepper and blanched purslane. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes and zucchini are tender, 10 minutes more. 

Break eggs directly into the vegetables and stir them in.

Break eggs into the vegetables and stir them to mix. Cook only until eggs are set.

Serve hot or room temperature accompanied by toast.



Another recipe for zarangollo is here.

A recent story about purslane in the Chicago Tribune is here.

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