Friday, September 1, 2017

Celebrate the end of the season with one last purslane recipe!

pesto and purslane focaccia
With all of my desktop activism, I've gotten behind on my blogs. Sorry! But I wanted share at least one last purslane recipe with you.

With the monsoon rains winding down, I have a feeling that this may be the end of purslane season. The little patch in the front yard, where I happily gather purslane for breakfast or dinner nearly every day, has flowered (little yellow buds) and the stems are getting woody. Hmph! Last night I had to remove the stems before adding the leaves to my cucumber salad. So sad because the citrusy stems are the best part in that dish.

I think they're still good if you cook them. A couple nights ago I made a yummy pesto and purslane "focaccia" on some bread I found at the nearby Babylon Market. (You can also use prepared pizza crust, toasted English muffins, or thin ciabatta.)

I cut a handful of purslane stems with tear-shaped leaves from my favorite purslane patch - leaving the rest of the plant to continue to grow to be harvested later.  I washed them in a bowl, swishing them around, so the little black seeds would fall off into the water (to be thrown into the back yard to sow more purslane for next monsoon season.)

click on pic see little black seeds
I quickly chopped the purslane up (stems and all) and sautéed them until tender with about 3 tablespoons of prepared pesto and maybe 3 tablespoons of olive oil. I spread that over the focaccia and topped it with a chopped tomato and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.  I warmed it up in the pre-heated oven (400 degrees) for a few minutes -  just long enough for the pesto oil to sink into the crust and the parmesan to brown a bit. Easy smeasy dinner in a few minutes. And so good!

We considered browning the bread with the pesto and then topping it with a salad of chopped purslane, tomato and queso fresco (feta would also work.) That would have been good a little earlier in the season when the stems were less woody.  Last week,  I used our handy-dandy George Foreman grill to whip up a quick purslane, tomato and fresh mozzarella (pesto is good in this too) Panini. One morning I just threw some purslane on a bagel with cream cheese. Another evening we had a picnic of Mexican verdolagas stew with black beans on a tortilla topped with queso fresco. Oh, yum! I'm getting hungry!

Oh, how I will miss harvesting this tasty, nutritious green fresh from my yard!

Get it while you can! Recipes here.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Foraging for Breakfast!

I have a new favorite weed dish. A few nights ago I made a yummy amaranth-lamb stew. I just threw a couple slices of lamb shoulder and half of a chopped onion (with just enough water to cover) into our mini crock pot. (Potato would be good too.) When the lamb was done, I de-boned it and added the amaranth that I had just harvested from the alleyway behind our house. Easy-smeasy!

I served it over rice. Craveable! The lamb and amaranth really compliment each other!  Since the lamb was still on sale, we put some up again the next night. Josh improved on a good thing by adding three cloves of chopped garlic.

After working up a hearty appetite pulling my morning weeds, Josh and I gathered some fresh amaranth for breakfast. (Before going out, Josh put one cup of rice, two cups of water and a pinch of curry powder in the rice cooker. )

First, I plucked leaves off of the little plants in our backyard. The little ones are the best!

Might as well grab some purslane while I'm at it.

And do a little weeding...

Whoops!   Looks like I'm not the only one who thinks they are yummy! A few days ago, I left a stalk of amaranth for a nearby bean plant to climb. The next morning there was nothing left but empty stems. When I went to take a pic the leaves had already grown back!  Who are these crafty culprits? The squirrel who lives by our compost pile seemed a likely suspect -  until Dan watched a lizard rear up on its hind legs and take a big bite out of an amaranth leaf. 

We didn't have nearly enough, so we went foraging in the easement behind the house - our own alleyway buffet! (How do you like the new sign I made?)

I pick from the more tender shorter plants first, then I pluck the smaller leaves from the center of the bigger plants. (Remember how the other plant grew back leaves! We can have more for later if we forage wisely!) 

I got a large bowlful, but it takes quite a lot. It shrinks like spinach when it is cooked.

We snapped off the stems of the amaranth and roots off of the purslane, then washed them thoroughly.

I removed the remaining bones from the lamb, then added the amaranth leaves to the lamb and a little broth to steam. It finished cooking in minutes.  I drained out the extra broth to save for another time.

The purslane was even faster. Just sautéed it a bit then scrambled in an egg.  I'm lucky I have any left for a scramble. Common purslane is especially crisp and flavorful first thing in the morning, so I like to eat it raw!

weeds 2 way!

Josh's does look better...
What a feast we had! I had weeds 2 way (purslane scramble and amaranth-lamb stew on curry rice). Josh added two eggs sunny-side up with feta on the side. He said it was the best thing he had in a while - even better than last time. Of course, he helped make it this time...

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Planting monsoons and moringas in our street-side basin

For those of you who wanted an update on how our beloved street-side basin would fare during the monsoon, this is for you!  

In the previous blog, I detailed our painstaking efforts to get rid of the well-established bermuda grass while digging our street-side basin and how, in a incredible act of optimism, we planted moringa seeds in that basin. 


We were advised (thanks Chetan!) to plant three moringa seeds in each hole and, when they had grown, remove the smallest plants so the strongest plant could flourish. But the other two were doing pretty well, so we decided to replant them in the remaining holes. 

But then it got hot, REALLY HOT. Could our delicate little trees survive the 114 degree weather?

I did everything I could think of to protect my babies from the scorching sun. I concocted a contraption for shade. I did my best to keep them moist, but those poor little displaced moringas were in desperate need of the monsoon rains. 

What the heck! I gave a rain dance a try! 

Finally, the monsoons arrived! 

Would our fragile little moringa survive or be blown away in the storm?

Dan rushed home to see how his basin was making out. 

It worked!  The rain was sinking into the mulch like it should. Our precious baby moringas were holding tight in their blanket of mulch!

We watched as the rain from the sidewalk flowed into the catchment basin, instead of into the street (like the water from the driveway shown above).

You can see the path of the water from the erosion in the pic above... (Dan's going to have to do some maintenance to shore up the sides of the basin.)

Our replanted moringa are doing fine. They have even sprouted some new leaves! 

The stronger moringa is getting too big for it's shade contraption.

It is such a delight to see everything so green from the rain. Well everything but that brown grass that Dan planted in the basin. (It's important to have desert grass in the basin because the roots create a sponge to soak in the water...) 

So I spent the morning transplanting some desert grass into the basin.  

Moving away the mulch,  I could see how rich the soil is under it and how much it maintained the moisture.  I took some of the dirt and gravel that the grass was growing in so it wouldn't have such a shock when replanted.

While I was there I spotted something sprouting on the side of the basin. This little guy...

With the rain comes new life and - our old rival - bermuda grass. 

You might recall that our whole right-of-way was overgrown with bermuda grass (see the pic to the left). They say that you have to dig four feet to get the whole root system and our basin isn't that deep - especially the raised terraces the moringa are planted in.

Catchment basins do take a little maintenance. So I try to stay on top of it. I love to go check up on our moringa trees anyway.  I'm getting to know the neighbors.  In the month and a half that we've had the basin, I've dug out maybe 7 or 8 sprouts.  (No doubt the heavy rain will double that amount.)   I try to dig deep enough so they won't come back up anytime soon. I think I'm winning the battle.  I suppose nature will win the war.  I'll just have to learn to live in harmony with it. Commit a few minutes everyday to take in the smell of the rain, feel the sprinkles on my face, and watch the birds scampering in the puddles as I dig up a stubborn sprout.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Picking purslane in the park

When I first moved to Tucson, Fall was my favorite season. After the long, hot summer, I couldn't wait to feel those first cool breezes of autumn brush my cheeks. But right now I gotta say my favorite is Monsoon season. Perhaps it's the awe-inspiring sunsets or our new catchment basins working brilliantly or everything greening up. Perhaps it's watching the monsoon showers and the accompanying light show with purslane stew on mesquite tortillas and a glass of sangria. Mmmm...  

If you've been following my blog for a while, you might recall how obsessed I can get about purslane. I have been spotted carrying a handful home on the bus - muddy roots and all! If anything, I'm probably more obsessed with that yummy "weed" now! Could be all the anticipation of waiting through the long, dry summer...

I started to worry when July rolled around and I still didn't see any purslane in the easement behind our house. At this same time last year, it had become a virtual alleyway buffet. But this summer, my faded "No  poison. Edible weeds" sign guarded nothing but some sun dried bermuda grass. There wasn't even a hint of the purslane I planted in our garden coming back. 

Then one day I spotted a sad little purslane plant growing in a crack of the sidewalk down the street from us. 

Suddenly, stunningly, the monsoon arrived! I continued to check the alleyway for my beloved purslane. Nothing! Last year we had a carpet of native horse purslane after just two storms. 

Imagine my delight when I finally found several patches of common purslane growing in our neighborhood park! I couldn't help sharing the good news with a curious grandma there watching her grandkid. I told her how the Tohono O'odham referred to purslane and amaranth as summer greens. I showed her the difference between the purslane and the weed next to it - how the purslane was a succulent with thicker reddish or light green stems and tear-shaped leaves. I even picked her a handful to take home for her salad. Hopefully she won't come back with her whole family and snatch them all up! Doh! Gotta stop telling everyone about my favorite purslane spot.

The last two nights we celebrated with one of our favorite purslane dishes, Mexican verdolagas stew. (Verdolagas is the Spanish word for purslane.)  I'll share it with you, if you promise not to go picking all the purslane in the park. You can follow the link to the original recipe, or use my quickie version here.

First, pick a fairly large bowl full of purslane. Cut off the roots and set aside to plant in your garden later. Wash the stems and leaves thoroughly to get out crunchy rocks, grass or other unwanted surprises. I found a cute little beetle in mine! (Dan's typical response, "Protein!") Coarsely chop the stems and leaves. Saute in olive oil until tender. Stir in 3-4 tablespoons of tomatillo sauce. Serve on thick corn or mesquite tortillas. Top with queso fresco.

We had the added treat of using the mesquite flour from the pods we picked in our own neighborhood. We had them milled at Desert Harvesters annual milling. We used the Native Seeds/SEARCH recipe for tasty (the mesquite makes them slightly sweet) mesquite flour tortillas. Yummy!

With all the fresh purslane and mesquite we picked ourselves, it was a very reasonably priced dinner. I only paid $5.99 for the queso fresco and $2.99 for tomatillo sauce for dinner two different days and we still have some of those left!

Verdolagas stew on mesquite tortillas while the monsoon storm crashes around us. Yep. Definitely my favorite season in Tucson!

Purslane sprouting in our garden!  Finally!

For more purslane recipes scroll down past this blog after clicking this link