one man’s weeds

Last year, I discovered purslane. I had read about the low-growing plant, with its small succulent leaves and pink stems, in Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus, and I was thrilled to identify some growing right in my very own garden. Since  purslane offers more chew than most of the edible leaves available in early summer, plus a pleasant, mild flavor, I actually encouraged it, clearing other weeds from its base while carefully harvesting the tips for my salads. This turned out to be not the best idea — by summer’s end I had more purslane than even yellow squash. So on Friday, when I began coming across the first pink-stemmed creepers, I ripped them out, roots and all. I’ll still enjoy a taste of purslane — but just this once. With this handful (on the checked towel, below), I made a quick, dill-flavored pickle.

Over the course of the afternoon, I also lifted out a few particularly fat dandelion roots. I first tried eating these a couple of years ago (again, on the advice of Uncle Euell) and was amazed at how delicious they are. After an initial boiling with a pinch of baking soda, their bitterness is leached out and a nutty, artichoke-y flavor remains. They also bring a welcome bit of substance to the table.

While I brought the dandelion roots to a boil, I set a bowl containing some of last year’s dried tomatoes, chopped green garlic, and a few glugs of olive oil next to the stove to soften in the steamy heat. Once the roots were tender, I drained and dried them, then threw into a hot cast-iron skillet to brown. A few minutes later, I added some walnuts — just long enough to toast them — then turned the hot mixture into the bowl of oily tomatoes. With some chopped wild arugula thrown in at the last second, it made a fine supper, served over some toasted stale cornbread.

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One Comment on “one man’s weeds”

  1. Mike Says:

    Years ago when I lived in upstate NY, there was a place near Glimmerglass State Park where I found both wild leeks and wild asparagus growing. I wonder if they still grow there….I was a “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” fan as well….

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