Friday, November 27, 2015
Happy Thanksgiving! Today's post is a fun, quick one that I should have posted in September or October, when the berries were actually ripe. The house hunt was just very time consuming and I never got around to doing the write-up--sorry about that.
American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is very easy to identify, easy to spot, and fairly common throughout the South and west into Texas, making it a good plant for new foragers. In addition to finding it in the wild, Beautyberry is also used in landscaping, great for urban and suburban foraging as well.
Identification difficulty: Beginner
Saturday, November 14, 2015
|Purslane: abundant, tasty, very nutritious, and pretty easy to identify--with just a couple pointers!|
Purslane, (latin name: Portulaca oleracea), is a wonderful, edible "weed". It's tasty, versatile, highly nutritious, easy to find, grows everywhere and is relatively easy to identify. It's not native to North America, and so is generally considered to be an invasive weed. For those of you with an interest in sustainable eating, choosing invasive species for your meals is one of the most sustainable, locavore options. There's even a word for it: invasivore!
Purslane does have one dangerous look-a-like: the potentially deadly spurges. (Euphorbia varieties). I find that they really don't look that much alike, and there is one tried and true way to tell them apart--making purslane a good plant for even a novice forager.
With that in mind, I'd like to tell you everything I know about purslane, including how to identify it, how to not confuse it with spurge, flavor profile and some basic cooking tips.
Purslane quick historyPurslane has spread throughout all of the Old World, (Europe, North Africa, and Asia). I have heard conflicting accounts wether it originated in India, the Middle East, or the Far East. It't eaten fairly frequently through out it's range, especially in the Indian subcontinent. With European imperialism, purslane spread to Australia and North and South America, and it's eaten there too (especially Mexico)--just strangely not in the U.S. or Canada in the modern day. It was apparently eaten in parts of the US as recently as WWII.
Purslane can be found most anywhere, as can adapt itself to a variety of climates, from arid to damp, hot to cold, and sun to shade. (Not including Antartica and other uninhabitable places, like parts of Canada and Russia. :P Just kidding!). It's a succulent, and can adapt itself to environments that experience the extremes of seasonal monsoons and months-long droughts.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
Just a quick post today, as life has been crazy, crazy busy!
My husband and I bought a house! So excited! But the entire process has completely derailed foraging. . . and social media, and social anything, and basically anything not related directly to buying a home.
But once it was ours I found a delightful surprise growing all in and around the rock garden:
Purslane!!! This is a favorite of mine, with it's slightly crunchy texture and juicy, green-apple sour flavor. Not sure how I missed it earlier, though I suspect that the owner may have been pulling out "weeds" while he was showing the house.
I hope it will grow back abundantly. In addition to an interesting flavor and very unique texture, purslane is extremely nutritious. Per cup it has more protein, iron, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin E than kale, and calorie for calorie, way more potassium than a banana. It's protein and iron are higher than any cultivated veggie, and it has more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant. (source: Wikipedia)
In the past I've never been able to get much of it, because it tends to grow in two places: people's backyards (and I haven't had one of my own in over a decade) and alongside highways, in parking and vacant lots--places contaminated with exhaust, run-off and other chemical pollutants. So now that I have a source, which in Texas might be available for most of the year, expect to see some recipe experimentation. The Wikipedia page above actually has some great ideas (Greek salad with purslane? Yes please!), so if you have this plant by you, definitely try some fun stuff. Check out my purslane recipe board on Pinterest, for recipes from all over the web.
Be aware, purslane has a very look-a-like plant, creeping (or spotted) spurge. Once you get to know them, they really aren't very similar at all, but they can be confusing if you look at just pictures--especially pics on the internet. The biggest difference is that spurge has a milky white sap in the stems when you break it, and purslane does not. I'll do a more complete identification in the weeks to come.
I usually try to keep this blog all business and science, and not personal, but I just have to say how blessed I feel. This year began with difficulties with a new boss that eventually led to me being laid off from a company I worked at nearly 11 years, (and his favorite employee taking my role. . . ahead of 2 others with seniority. . .). Then came 3 months of not even being able to get an interview in the over-saturated Northeast. Money concerns led to marital difficulties . . . Last March my sense of self-worth was lower than I thought it could ever be. I was feeling truly and utterly defeated.
Since taking the plunge to move to a state with more opportunities, I got a fantastic job at a higher salary with incredible benefits and vacation, all with really amazing and wonderful people to work with. We are able to afford a home of our own here, something which would have been a financial hardship back north. I really can't say anything but "Thank you, Lord".