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.

*I asked maintenance workers if they used herbicide in our neighborhood park and they said that they didn't. It's always a good idea to ask! 

1 comment:

  1. Glad you found some and yours is starting to sprout. I broke down and bought some at San Augustin FM yesterday, looked for ones with roots and put them in my new space which is going to be for verdolagas, chiltepin, tomatillo, lamb's quarters, maybe a little amaranth, cilantro in cooler weather and maybe a hardy tomato. My hackberry is finally starting to look like something other than a dead stick! I was about to give up on it. Hurray Monsoons!