Monthly Archives: August 2013

Purslane: Summer’s Healthy Gift

Big bunch of verdolagas

Big bunch of verdolagas

By this time in the Arizona monsoon season, flower gardens and other empty spaces should be full of juicy purslane, also called verdolagas. It has small fleshly leaves about the size of a fingernail, pinkish stems, and grows close to the ground.  I have only a small patch this year next to an irrigation emitter because it simply has not rained yet in our part of downtown Tucson. The cactus are pitifully shrivelled and the ground is weedless. The picture above is from last year.

Purslane can be eaten raw, chopped in salads or sautéed .  In addition to all the vitamin C, calcium, and iron, purslane also has the most omega-3 fatty acids of any green. This is an important nutrient as our modern diets do not provide enough of it.   Certain fibers also help in controlling blood sugar.  Since it’s free and (usually) abundant, why not try some?

My friend Roni Rivera-Ashford taught me to put a bowl under the colander and catch the water you use to rinse the purslane. You will find lots of very tiny black seeds in the water.  Pour that water with the seeds on a potted plant and you’ll have purslane next year.

To prepare the purslane, first chop and sauté  some onion and garlic in a little oil.  I have I’Itoi onions left in my fridge from spring. Somehow they “know” it is time to be planted so they are beginning to sprout so I used some of those.

IMG_0879

Next add the chopped purslane.

IMG_0880

The classic next addition is chopped tomatoes.  My advisor on Mexican food is my water aerobics buddy Elda Islas. She cooked for a houseful of sons when they were growing up and now delights grandchildren with her authentic Mexican food.  She’s also pretty laid back.  When I asked what else to add, she said, “Anything you want!”  She added, “Sometimes I just clean out the refrigerator.”  Taking her cue, I also added fresh corn and sautéed  chicken pieces.

Add chopped tomatoes...

Add chopped tomatoes…

 ... and chicken if you'd like.

… and chicken if you’d like.

The mixture tasted a little bland to me, so I added a tablespoon of Santa Cruz Chili Paste.  That is a staple in my refrigerator.

IMG_0883

Elda’s suggestion for cheese topping is also forgiving:  “Whatever you have.” I have some nice organic white cheddar so that is what you see on these purslane tacos.

The finished purslane tacos.

The finished purslane tacos.

If you have a favorite way to use purslane, please share with the rest of us.

____________________________

*I will be at the Second Annual Prickly Pear Festival in Superior this Saturday demonstratiing Prickly Pear Onion Jam.  This event was rollicking last year and promises to be even better this year.

____________________________

If you are interested in more recipes for desert plants, take a look at my books Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants and The Prickly Pear Cookbook.   The New Southwest Cookbook contains recipes from talented restaurant and resort chefs throughout the Southwest using traditional ingredients in new and delicious ways.

Advertisements

Central Europe Farmers Markets

(First, let me welcome the dozen new readers who have joined in the last month. You have expected a blog on the edible wild plants of the Southwest, and that is what usually appears. But once or twice each summer I highlight great food tradtions I’ve found on my vacation.   You may recall recall people returning from vacations back in the ’70s and ’80 and pulling together a slide show for all their friends. This is sort of the 21st century version.)

Organic cheese from Moravia.

Organic cheese from Moravia.

On Saturday mornings in Prague, farmers and other food purveyors gather  along the Vltava River to sell their wares. The woman above holds a cheese manufactured from organic milk in Moravia.  There seemed to be an interest in the value of organic produce.

Cured meats

Cured meats

Along with the cheeses, were cured meats.  We were always served a full selection of cold cuts for breakfast to layer on bread.  Cold cuts are also served for supper after the larger meal at noontime.

Beautiful loaves of bread.

Beautiful loaves of bread.

Stevia for people to take home and prepare their own sweetner.

Stevia for people to take home and prepare their own sweetner.

These fresh stevia plants were disappearing fast.  I’m sorry that my inability to speak Czech hindered the possibility of finding out what the purchasers were actually doing with it once they got it home.

Saurkraut

Sauerkraut

Pickled vegetables are big in the Czech Republic and this sauerkraut was sold from a bucket to take home by the pint.

Fresh fruit syrups were the base for drinks.

Fresh fruit syrups were the base for drinks.

This young couple at the Prague farmers market had prepared nine different fresh fruit syrups such as kiwi, lemon, orange, and blackberry.  You chose your flavor, they ladled some out and then filled the glass with carbonated water. Delicious and refreshing. It made the most fabulous lemonade I’ve ever tasted.  Here’s a close-up of the lemon infusion.

Fresh lemon syrup.

Fresh lemon syrup.

Vegetable market in a  Venice canal.

Vegetable market in a Venice canal.

Summer means fresh vegetables throughout Central Europe. This merchant brought produce to our neighborhood on a boat moored in one of the Venice canals. Without access to a kitchen, I was limited to buying a few of those luscious peaches in the foreground.

Sausages of all kinds.

Sausages of all kinds.

In Budapest we lived in an apartment with a well-equipped kitchen and it was really fun to shop at the market and try new things. Central Europeans are really into sausages of all kinds. Here are just a few in the Central Market in Budapest. Those in the upper right corner look like standard franfurters to me but I didn’t buy any.

Bologna Salad

Bologna Salad

Hungarians love sausages so much they even slice them up and make them into salad as above.

Roasted goose legs.

Roasted goose legs.

The first time we visited the Central Market in Budapest, my husband saw the roasted goose legs and just had to go back and try them. They were great.  Goose liver paste is an important national delicacy, and I guess they really do need to come up with something to do with the rest of the goose.

Horse Roast

Horse Roast

Saw the above in a butcher shop in Venice.  There’s a different feeling about eating horses in Europe. That’s why we travel — to discover other ways of thinking and eating.  But I must say the most unusual thing that I saw in the corner grocery where we shopped in Budapest was below.  I was so shocked, I just took a picture and forgot to look at where they were manufactured.

Right in our corner grocery in Budapest.

Right in our corner grocery in Budapest.

******************

If you have gathered fresh prickly pears and are wondering what to do with them now, you can see a suggestion for quick juicing in a previous post here.  Once you’ve got the juice, find some terrific  recipes in The Prickly Pear Cookbook or Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants.  If you don’t have time to deal with them now, put them in plastic bags in the freezer and you can process them later.  And always, always, wear your rubber gloves.  It takes a minute to put them on, but many minutes to take out the stickers