Purslane

Portulaca oleracea

If you have a garden, it is very likely that you’ve seen (and possibly cursed) this weedy cousin of Moss Rose. In fact, its Latin species name “oleracea” means “of the garden”. I hope you’ll be happy to know that not only is this low-growing succulent plant edible…..it is delicious, to boot! and because the roots aren’t terribly deep, I like to let it spread, to keep the quack grass from taking over the garden.

Purslane is as versatile as it is prolific – you can eat the leaves and stems raw or cooked – in sandwiches, salads, soups and hot dishes. I even pickled some last year and they were absolutely fantastic. I was a little nervous after I poured the hot pickling brine in the jar packed with purslane leaves and stems, as they shrunk up quite a lot and I was afraid they would be a slimy mess. But….they were not slimy at all, and amazingly kept their texture and were very delicious. You can use any pickling recipe you like. I like a simple brine: 2 cups mild vinegar (rice vinegar or white wine vinegar), 4 cups water, 3 T salt and some garlic cloves. Boil, pour into jars packed with Purslane leaves and stems. Cover tightly, refrigerate after cooling. So yummy!

Like all other wild foods, Purslane packs a lot of vitamins and minerals, plus it is a rich source of heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. As a succulent plant, the leaves and stems are nice and juicy, and the flavor is a tiny bit tangy. I love eating it straight out of the garden. It keeps well in the refrigerator, too, so you can have it handy to put into your salads and whatnot. Here are some great recipes that feature this abundant (not so) wild food.

Enjoy!!

Jewelweed

Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis

Jewelweed is in full bloom right now, and it is thick as ever out by our swamp. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love these lovely little flowers, and so do I. It is amazing to me to watch this plant grow each year – it starts out every spring with tiny little 2 leafed babies popping up from the dirt, and by August it is a 4 to 5 foot tall, very dense shrub. In the late fall and early winter, the entire mass dies completely back so that you can’t even tell it was ever there!

I don’t eat this plant, though it IS edible when very young. It contains a lot of calcium oxalates, increasing at the plant gets older. Even when young, it’s advised to cook it well, boiling in 2 changes of water. That just doesn’t sound very yummy to me, lol!

What I DO use this plant for, though, is the juicy stuff in the leaves and stems. It is a very nice remedy for skin irritations, even ‘big’ ones like Poison Ivy. I make a strong ‘tea’ with the leaves, stems and flowers and then strain and freeze the tea in ice cube trays. Just this weekend I was out harvesting some other plants on the side of a dirt road and wasn’t watching where I was stepping. My husband called out from the car “Hey, isn’t that Poison Ivy right there?”. Well, “right there” was right where I was standing, with my bare feet in open toed sandals!!! We high-tailed it to a nearby establishment where I washed my feet the best I could in the public restroom, then as soon as we got home I got one of my Jewelweed ice cubes and rubbed it all over my feet. Boy did that feel good after a day of being all hot and sweaty! That was 2 days ago now, and no blisters yet. (Keeping my fingers crossed)

The little seed pods are great fun, too. Later in the season, fat little seed pods will appear, and when you pinch them, the fleshy pod splits and curls up, spitting the seeds out rapidly. It feels alive in your fingers and first-timers often jump back, shaking their hand as if there were a bug on it, lol! If you can catch the seeds, they are a nice little trail nibble, tasting nut-like. The grandkids love popping those little seed-pods, and I love watching them interacting with nature. 🙂

Here is a little bit more information about Jewelweed, and where to find it.

The seeds, and the curled-up seed pod.
The grandkids!

Creeping Charlie

Oh, Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea), how this poor thing gets a bad rap. As a member of the Mint family, it spreads easily and prolifically, populating lawns, gardens and driveways with it’s bitterly-minty-smelling leaves and petite purple flowers. Try as you might, you aren’t going to get rid of Creeping Charlie, so you might as well eat it, right?

It’s easy to throw some of the leaves into a salad, whether it’s made from fresh greens, or a tabouleh-style salad. You’ll likely want to chop it into small bits since it is fairly bitter tasting, but pleasant when mixed with tastier stuff.

That teeny-tiny purple flower is surprisingly delicious, and not bitter at all. It’s a bit tedious to pick any significant amount, but fun to nibble on them while harvesting the leaves. I like to toss a few of the flowers on top of a cream cheese veggie dip, to make it pretty.

My very favorite way to use Creeping Charlie, though, is to make tea. It is very mild, with the bitter note in background and more of a sort-of-sweet flavor than you’d expect. I’ll use fresh or dried leaves and stems to make tea in the summer, and of course just dried ones in the winter.

There are a couple other plants that look very similar to Creeping Charlie – Purple Dead Nettle and Henbit. They are both in the mint family, and both are also edible. Here’s a great article with details about how to tell them apart.

Don’t you love it when a ‘problem’ plant turns out to be something really good instead?? 🙂

Chokecherries

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The chokecherries are ready to harvest!  I don’t know why the birds haven’t gotten them all, but I’m glad!  Last weekend, hubby and I harvested 25# of these beauties, most of which are bubbling into wine right now.  We saved out a few pounds to make jelly and syrup with, too.  They are delicious when cooked, but very astringent when you eat them raw.  It feels like they suck the spit right out of your mouth, leaving it dry and feeling weird.  

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One of the ways to know you have chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) is to look on the leaf petiole (stem) to see if it has a couple of little glands – they look like tiny bumps, and you can see them here, just barely.  Black cherries hang in a long cluster, just like chokecherries, and can be used interchangeably.  

To make a syrup, I pull the little berries off the stems and put them in a pan with enough water to not-quite-cover them.  I simmer until they get good and soft and I start seeing the pits floating around, then strain the pits out, keeping as much of the pulp as I can.  (I like my syrup chunky….if you like it smooth, then you’ll want to use a finer mesh to strain just the juice).  I’ll put the chunky juice back into the pan with an equal amount of organic sugar, then boil until I can’t stir it down.  Cool and refrigerate.  So far the syrup I made has lasted a week in the fridge, and I am going to freeze it soon.  I’m using it to flavor my kombucha, and over ice cream.

Happy Trails!!

 

 

Sheep Sorrel

SheepSorrelSheep Sorrel is a summer delight.  Those interestingly shaped leaves – are they sheep heads with little tiny ears and big fat snouts? Or electric guitars? Or Arrowheads?  Whatever they are, they are tart, tangy and delicious.

I rarely cook Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella), though it can add a nice tang to soups and hot dishes.  I prefer to eat it plain as a snack when I’m out in the yard, or else in my salads and smoothies.

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Sheep sorrel  grows in sunny spots, and I see it flowering along country roadsides everywhere.  As a member of the buckwheat family, it has a tall flower spike with tiny florets adorning it.  Unlike other plants, the leaves of Sheep sorrel stay tender and tasty even when it’s flowering.  It is hardy, too – it grows in our yard and gets mowed down over and over again….only to keep popping back up, over and over again.

Advice from Sheep sorrel: When life mows you down, dig your roots deeper and come back stronger.

Chickweed

Chickweed

This is such a pretty little plant, and delicious, too.  Chickweed (Stellaria media) is one of those nice wild greens that never gets bitter and can be good to eat all through the growing season.  The flavor is mild and tastes like summer.  I see it in a variety of places – alongside an old barn, out in a pasture, on the edge of the woods.  The long, leafy stems like to lay down, but if they get crowded with other plants, they will grow upright.

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At first glance, the Chickweed flowers look like they have 10 petals, but a closer look shows that there are really 5 deeply lobed petals.  This is a common trait in the Pink family, which Chickweed belongs to.  You might see a very small, sort of fuzzy plant that looks just like this, with the same kind of flower – that would be Mouse-ear Chickweed.  That one is edible, too.  Fuzzy food is not my favorite, so I just leave that one be.

I usually eat Chickweed raw in salads and smoothies.  I’ll go out and snip some stems with a scissors, then pull the leaves off the lower, tougher end of the stem.  The stem tips are usually tender enough to use.

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I see you there, baby Chickweed, growing in my strawberry bed, lol!!  It’s okay, you will make a nice ground cover, and since this is right out my back door, I won’t have to walk very far to pick some tender leaves for my salads.