I don’t know how it happens every year. The beginning of June comes bounding in and the days of summer seem endless. All of the bike rides, canoe trips, and days laying on the hammock reading cookbooks stretch ahead so far into the horizon they can’t be seen, even with a good deal of squinting. And then as quickly as it came, we’re staring at August 20th on the calendar. Kids are toddling down the sidewalks with crisp folders, packets of lined paper, and fresh pencils in tow.
If there’s one major plus to the end of August it’s that the farmers market is filled to the gills with produce. When I was there on Saturday, it felt like they were giving it away. For twenty-five bucks I got a basket of onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash blossoms, and bell peppers, in addition to a couple of garlic heads, a leek, and a bunch of curly kale and purslane. And did I mention that it was all organic?
Purslane may be something that you don’t regularly have in your refrigerator. Also known as duckweed, pigweed, and cat’s tongue, it may be something you do regularly have in your yard. By some, it’s considered a weed. However, this leafy succulent that thrives in poor soils is used in many cuisines across the world, including Mexican, Greek, and Indian. In fact, it’s claimed to have been Gandhi’s favorite food. The leaves have a hearty texture that’s crisp and juicy and a taste that’s similar to spinach, but milder and with a hint of sweetness. The tender stems can be eaten; although I find that just pulling the leaves away from the thicker center stem makes for a prettier presentation and more pleasing mouth feel.
Purslane is rich in vitamins A, C, and E. It’s high in calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and potassium. Perhaps best of all, it ranks the highest of all green leafy vegetables in omega 3 fatty acids. Add a vinaigrette made with flax oil, and it’s a veritable omega 3 feast. (Just a tablespoon of my favorite flax oil covers 500% of my omega 3 needs for the day.)
I’ve been using purslane as the base of a salad with cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes, and carrots. Then I top it with a sweet vinaigrette that doesn’t blanket the flavor of the tender purslane, but allows it to peek through.
For this fruity vinaigrette, Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar from Trader Joe’s gives a colorful pop of citrus, but if you don’t have that on hand, feel free to substitute with any champagne vinegar, brown rice vinegar, or red wine vinegar. Add a handful of peanuts, and you have a tempting salad that’s perfect with crusty grilled garlic bread or baked tofu. One sweet and crunchy bite of this salad, and the dwindling days of summer may not be so hard to swallow after all.
- 1 ½ cups purslane, leaves pulled from hard center stem (If you don’t have purslane, spinach or watercress would be a lovely replacement.)
- 1 small cucumber, diced
- 1 small red bell pepper, diced
- 1 small to medium-sized tomato, diced
- 1 small carrot, diced
- 1 Tbsp peanuts
Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of Orange Champagne Muscat Vinaigrette.
Makes ¼ cup dressing
- 2 Tbsp flax oil
- 2 Tbsp Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar
- ¼ tsp stone-ground mustard
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- ¼ tsp dried basil
- ¼ tsp onion granules
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- Pinch of salt & pepper
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
By the way, not everyone in my house is interested in “cat’s tongue.” This cat’s tongue, for example, prefers another farmers market find and so-called weed…