Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Good-bye basil, hello purslane
When I wrote about purslane (Portulaca oleracea) a year ago, I commented that I had never seen its flowers despite re-seeding prolifically (see Eat your weeds). I speculated that it was cleistogamous, with flowers that self-pollinate without ever opening. It turns out I've been looking at the wrong time! I finally caught some open flowers one morning, and while it's true that the tiny yellow flowers are easy to miss and rather forgettable, it also turns out that they're only open for about an hour. Not being a morning person, that might explain why I've never seen them before!
Purslane growing with some very sad basil
Since I let it go to seed last year, purslane is coming up all over again, in all my pots, including my container of basil. Which is probably just as well, because my basil contracted basil downy mildew again, this time succumbing just two weeks after I planted it, when it was barely past the seedling stage. This may be my Year Without Basil, which would be a true tragedy because I love, love, love fresh basil but I'm not sure what else I can do; any I plant now will just pick it up immediately. Fortunately, this disease affects only basil and does not spread to other plants.
So purslane is my new go-to home-grown green. But because even weeds have pests, I have to be careful when I harvest it not to also harvest purslane leaf miners. They're easy to spot because they make the leaves look pretty ugly, and while they would be harmless enough to eat, I just don't want to eat bugs.
Purslane leaf miner
Purslane is a delicious and nutritious vegetable and I've experimented with it in several different recipes, always raw because for some reason, the idea of cooked purslane doesn't appeal to me (nor does the description of the cooked vegetable as "slimy"!). I do a lot less cooking in hot summer weather anyway, unless I can cook on the grill! Purslane makes a great salad, combining especially well with cucumber, onion, avocado, and citrus. I always try different combinations, and this time I had some grilled corn left over from the last meal I actually cooked over a week ago, so tonight I threw together a cold salad with grilled corn, black beans, cucumber, avocado, and purslane. I called it a salsa and scooped it with tortilla chips, and it was pretty darn tasty if I say so myself.
A quick and easy summer dinner (alcoholic beverage optional)
Salad/salsa with purslane (among other things): recipe below
Serves 2-4, with or without tortilla chips (all measurements are approximate)
1 small can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 medium Hass avocado, ripe but firm, chopped small
1 medium cucumber, finely chopped
1 cup grilled corn (kernels cut from 2 ears)
1 cup purslane, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper to taste