Along the Grapevine


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Mint and Purslane Pesto

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This post is inspired by a recent recipe posted by BubblyBEE in which she not only makes a delicious carrot greens pesto, but discusses many other ingredients that can be used besides the popular basil and pine nut variety. I have made the carrot version before, but overlooked the use of mint and purslane  (portulaca oleracea)- two ingredients I have in spades growing right near my back door.

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I usually follow a simple method for pesto – some herbs or greens, garlic, usually walnuts and olive oil. Cheese can be added when served, but if the pesto is not good without cheese, then it is not worth making, so my basic pest contains no cheese.

If you are not familiar with purslane, it is one of the gems of the weed world. It contains, among many other nutrients, omega 3 fatty acids which makes it a good addition to a vegetarian diet. For more information of food value, identification and what to do with it, check out this article.

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My only complaint with this weed is that I never have quite enough of it. I do see it everywhere, but often in public places like sidewalks and parking lots where hygiene is a concern. It does grow in bare spots in my lawn and gardens, but easily gets crowded out obscured by bushier plants. My attempts to cultivate it have not worked out too well. However, I do have a few patches, and will use every bit I can.

The entire plant is edible, even after it has started to flower. The stems can grow to be several inches long, and the entire stem, leaves and flowers can be used. it is crunchy and has a mild citrus flavour – perfect for salads and garnishes.

For my pesto I used 2 cups each of mint and purslane, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup olive oil. Process in a blender until a good consistency and it’s done! Serve it with pasta, on pizzas, crackers or in sandwiches.

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Linked to Fiesta Friday #85 hosted by Angie @ The Novice Gardener and co-hosted by Kaila @ GF Life 24/7 and Jenny @ Dragonfly Home Recipes.

Related posts: Gazpacho with purslane; Waldorf salad with purslane; Purslane and cabbage salad.


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A Forager’s Red and Blue Salad

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You needn’t be a full-time, experienced or savvy forager to take advantage of the wonderful wild food all around us. With simple additions of two or three wild herbs, flowers, seeds or greens, an ordinary dish can be made into something which is visually and nutritionally superior to its standard self. Salads are perhaps the easiest place to get started. The ingredients will vary from week to week, depending on what is growing in your garden, near-by wild areas or even in your flower pots. Just be sure you know what you are picking, and that it is indeed an edible plant.

My salad today was inspired by what I found in the garden while out weeding. The base for it is what is growing in the garden at this time of year, namely lettuce and cucumbers (of which I have an alarming amount!) and beet greens, which in this case are actually deep red. Beyond that I noticed a lot of red and blue and decided to work with these as if they were my palette for a salady creation.

Even though the colour didn’t fit, I picked some purslane, probably the single most nutritious plant growing in any garden. I have way more this year than any previous year, and am determined to make good use of it while it lasts.

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For the red theme, I also used the young leaves of red amaranth which has successfully seeded itself each year.

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And purple basil.

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For the blue, I used a few chicory flowers for a little bitterness

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and borage flowers for a lot of sweetness, like honey.

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and Johnny-Jump-Ups for a mild wintergreen flavour.

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I considered using the goutweed next to it, but it didn’t fit in with the colour. This was not the only plant that had to be excluded because of its colour.

A few blackberries and a vinaigrette made by mixing some strained blackberry jam into the vinegar before combining it with oil and seasoning.

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The final result was a wonderful mixture of sweet, bitter and sour, light and fresh with some robust flavour not always found in summer salads.

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I will not likely be able to duplicate this exact recipe as one or more of the ingredients will soon no longer be available, but I will continue to experiment with wild ingredients, and hope you will give it a go too.

Related posts:

Gazpacho with purslane

Waldorf salad with purslane


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Gazpacho with Purslane

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If you are looking for a gazpacho recipe which is smooth and creamy, spicy, and can be whipped up in a food processor in a few seconds, you’d better keep looking. There are plenty of those recipes out there, but when I make this traditional Andalusian soup, I make it as my Spanish professor’s wife taught me several decades ago, and as I saw it made when I lived in Spain shortly after that.

Since that time, gazpacho has become a popular ‘ethnic’ dish, with so many variations it seldom resembles the simple, cold vegetable soup I came to know and love in Spain. Its predecessor was a soup made of bread, olive oil and garlic, and only after the ‘conquista’ did tomatoes enter into the picture, and with them a few other local, seasonal ingredients like onion, cucumber and sweet pepper.

So for this week’s Fiesta Friday, I would like to share this recipe I have made over the years, a recipe which has a distinctively Spanish flavour but which I am able to replicate with ingredients from my own garden – the best of both worlds.

I was instructed that a good gazpacho starts with dried, crumbled bread. Into that, crushed garlic, salt and vinegar are rubbed together, and then a generous amount of olive oil added gradually, forming a creamy base which blends easily with the fresh chopped vegetables. This is not to say that you can’t ad-lib a bit, with sweet herbs or other seasonal vegetables. I made a couple of minor changes. I used homemade whole wheat bread because that’s what I had, and I substituted purslane for the green pepper.

I have written about purslane before. To learn how to identify it and about its nutritional properties, please visit this post. You will see that by adding purslane, I actually upped the omega-3 content, among other things. I gather purslane does grow in Spain, because in researching it, I found it grows pretty much everywhere. I have small patches of it throughout my garden, and one pot where it volunteered and smothered the pepper plants I was starting.DSC01053

So it is appropriate I chose to replace peppers with it.

Gazpacho with Purslane

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

2 lbs ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1 slice dried bread, about 2 Tbsp

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp wine or sherry vinegar

3 cloves (or more) garlic

a handful of purslane, chopped

1 thick slice sweet onion (about 2 Tbsp once grated)

1 cucumber, peeled and seeded

Method

Grate the bread to make a fine crumb and rub in the crushed garlic, salt and vinegar. Gradually add the oil and mix it vigorously.

Chop the tomato and purslane very fine. In order not to waste any of the juice, I put the seeds in a colander and strained as much juice as I could to add to the tomatoes. Grate the onion and cucumber. Add all the vegetables and combine. Chill for a couple of hours, and garnish it with an ice cube if you want it really cold.

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Waldorf Salad with Purslane

With all the ripening apples falling off the trees, I decided to use some in a waldorf salad so they could be used fresh rather than cooked. Not having any celery growing in my garden this year, and finding little in the local markets, I decided to use purslane instead. In this version, I used very little mayonnaise, and a little lime juice just to prevent the apples from going brown during preparation.

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These are the ingredients I used, but feel free to use whatever you fancy.

apples

purslane

walnuts

juice of 1 lime

mayonnaise

salt and pepper to taste

I mixed the lime juice with the purslane, then added the apples and stirred after each apple, adding them one at a time. I left some of the skin on the apples because they are organic, and add some nice colour. Then, I added the rest of the ingredients.

And a nasturtium flower.

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Purslane and Cabbage Salad

Purslane (portulaca oleracea) is yet another weed I have growing wildly in my garden, but only now have I decided to stop thinking of it as a pesky weed. I am even considering collecting some seeds in the fall, and growing some in its own little garden – away from my onions and leeks which it likes to snuggle up to. Image

Canadian Gardening says this about it:

Nutritionally, purslane is a powerhouse. It has more than double the omega-3s that kale has and, as far as I know, more than any other leafy green ever analyzed. It has over four times the vitamin E of turnip leaves, more than any other leafy green ever analyzed. It has glutathione and other antioxidants and about as much iron as spinach. It also has reasonable amounts of other nutrients as well as phytochemicals, like all these leafy greens. So purslane is no slouch, not a poison, and definitely worth eating.

Rich in omega-3s
Many people studying the Mediterranean diet think that it is foods like purslane and other omega-3 greens that give the Greeks their good balance of fats. Olive oil only contributes some of the omega-3s; the greens, walnuts, oily fish, and a few other foods give them the rest of what they need.

To help you identify it, it is a spreading plant, looks much like portulaca, and has reddish-green or purple tinted stems that are very fleshy. It has small, inconspicuous yellow flowers.Image

If you pick only the succulent stem tips, the plant will continue to grow. Remove flowers as they appear, unless you wish to collect seeds. The flavour is lemony-sweet, and they are crunchy when fresh.

As my first experiment in eating it, I decided to try it in its raw form to see how I liked the taste. This salad is not really a recipe – just an idea for using fresh purslane.100_0423

I used cabbage, shredded carrot, purslane, olive oil, salt and cider vinegar to keep it as simple as possible. Other herbs, shredded beets, jerusalem artichokes, or even a base of lettuce or some other greens would work just as well.100_0426