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Posts Tagged ‘volunteers’

Purslane: Eat Weeds from Your Small Kitchen Garden

Your Small Kitchen Garden has kept me very busy this summer, but I haven’t been able to write much about it. I’ll tell that story in an upcoming post. Fortunately, my brother is passionate about many gardening topics, and he sent me this piece about benefiting from one of the weeds that probably grows in your garden.

Kris’s last guest post was about making sauerkraut, and it has been very popular. So, I’m pleased to offer up his take on how you should treat purslane, this very common weed.

Weed Eating, no Machines Required

by Kris Gasteiger

Purslane is a succulent whose leaves and stems are distinctive among most common garden plants.

Down here in Bowie, Maryland, the season is passing, but up in Pennsylvania and New York, you may still have a chance to harvest one of the best vegetables we don’t tend to grow intentionally. Purslane!

Around here, purslane is a warm season weed of disturbed ground (Gardens for instance) as it is in most of the eastern US. In France and India, it is grown as a garden vegetable and there are different cultivars which tend to be more upright than our local weeds.

I let my purslane get six to twelve inches long before weeding it out and taking it to the kitchen. This week, I picked about five pounds in ten seconds when I encountered a giant plant and its twin in one of the beds I take care of for the city of Bowie. It is best harvested before it flowers and goes to seed. The seeds give it a grittiness that’s unpleasant at best and the stems toughen as they age.

Purslane takes hold easily on bare ground, and so shows up in gardens all over the northeast. If you usually toss it in the compost when you weed, at least once take some to your kitchen and serve it up with a meal.

In the kitchen, I pinch off the roots and any thick tough stems. Leaf Miners can infest purslane, so check for and remove any affected leaves. Rinse the purslane in a sink of cold water, lifting it to drain in a colander while you get ready to cook it. (It’s good raw in salads and sandwiches too.)

To cook your free greens, put some good olive oil or butter in a big pan, saute a clove or two of minced garlic in the oil, and add the damp purslane before the garlic begins to change color. Stir until the purslane wilts, and serve.

Options: include herbs of your choice (basil, thyme, oregano, dill…), some lemon juice, onions, a dash of hot sauce or cider vinegar, bacon, ham, or fat back. Be creative, it’s all good.

Purslane goes well in cream soup, omelets, quiche, and any other recipe in which you would use a green vegetable; it even pickles well.

Nutritionally, purslane has a lot of vitamin C among other nutrients and minerals. It is one of the few land-based sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.


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Small Kitchen Garden Volunteers

weedy small kitchen garden

While I wait for frosty cold nights to end in the spring, weeds grow wild in my small kitchen garden… but alongside those weeds: volunteer herbs! Here, a cilantro plant that must have rooted in the fall keeps pace with a thistle plant whose tap root probably reaches nine or more inches into the soil.

As the owner of a small kitchen garden, I have a lot of enthusiasm for volunteers. The volunteers I’m talking about are the ones that sprout in my planting beds in the footprint of last year’s plants: their parents.

Of the plants I grow, the most successful at reproduction are cilantro and dill. Both toss hundreds—maybe even thousands of seeds onto the soil from about mid-summer until early winter… and dozens of those seeds manage to take root in the spring before I get into the garden. Tomatoes also try to procreate, and succeed occasionally when a fruit falls from a plant and I leave it to rot on the mulch. I’ve even had the occasional squash plant emerge from seeds I can only imagine some rodent or bird dropped during a trip from my compost heap.

Hindrance to Planting my Small Kitchen Garden

As much as I love the volunteers (they provide fresh herbs weeks before I’d harvest any from seeds I plant intentionally), they interfere with my gardening. I try to work around them, but invariably I have to excavate huge patches of them to make way for other produce I wish to plant.

Sometimes I transplant some volunteer herb plants, but mostly I try to harvest them before I till. Dehydrated homegrown herbs have so much more fragrance and flavor than commercially-packed herbs. It’s astonishing how much like fresh herbs they smell and taste.

The day I excavated furrows for my tomato plants, I needed to weed out hundreds of volunteer dill plants and dozens of volunteer cilantro plants. Here’s a three-minute video I recorded in the garden as I harvested herbs:

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