When your garden gives you weeds, make salad!

IMG_0215I recently returned from vacation and was delighted to be welcomed home by a bountiful garden. I guess the saying about a watched pot never boiling relates to gardening as well – my watched garden didn’t seem to be growing, but once back from vacation it seemed to have exploded!

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But the tomatoes, peas, broccoli, and kale weren’t the only plants that seemed to double or triple in size. Of course, those pesky weeds did as well. Luckily, the majority of weeds in my garden beds were purslane. Purslane is more of a nuisance than a real IMG_0214threat to plants, unlike some other types of weeds. In this instance, I bet the purslane did my garden a favor by acting as ground cover to conserve moisture during that hot, dry spell we had a couple weeks ago (while I was conveniently in the cool Upper Peninsula of Michigan). Still, favor or not, by the time I returned from vacation, it had to go.

Purslane is tricky to get rid of. You can’t just throw it in your walkway or in the compost because it will re-root itself – from any part of the plant, leaf or stem – when left to fend for itself. It’s best to dry it out on some pavement to make sure it’s good and dead.

I had so much purslane pulled from the ground, I didn’t know what to do with it. Then I remembered reading a recipe for a purslane salad in a cookbook I had lying around. I knew purslane was edible. Come to find out, it’s actually nutritious too! Purlsane is high in Vitamin E, beta carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids (according to this Mother Earth News article).

So I gathered my purslane, washed it, dried it, and set to make my salad. I realized too late that I didn’t have the main ingredients, tomato and potato, for the salad recipe I wanted to make (shared below), so I ended up just adding a bit of purslane to a more traditional kale salad.

While I wouldn’t say I’m a total convert, it was a nice new addition to a salad, and I’ll likely experiment cooking with purslane a few more times, especially since it is so abundant in my garden. Apparently, there are many ways to use purslane – check some out here.

After all – weeds are plants too (they are just located in less-than-ideal spots!). For some more info about edible weeds, read this post from Make it Missoula…. and let us know how you eat your weeds!

Purlsane, Potato, and Tomato Salad – from Farm House Cookbook, by Susan Herrmann Loomis.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 small new potatoes, scrubbed
  • 6 cups purslane, rinsed, patted dry, and torn into bite-size pieces (note: make sure to rinse well! I’ve heard of people eating the stems and others throwing them away. I had the stems on mine, and they seemed fine, although next time I will tear the purslane into smaller pieces)
  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, quartered

Instructions:

1. Make the vinaigrette: Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, and garlic together in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.

2. Place the potatoes in a vegetable steamer over boiling water, cover, and steam until the potatoes are tender,  about 20 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the steamer basket, and when they are cool enough to handle, cut them in half. Add them to the vinaigrette, toss, and set aside. (This can be done the night before you plan to serve the salad.)

3. Add the purslane and the tomatoes to the potatoes, and toss so all of the ingredients are coated with the dressing. Season to taste, and serve at room temperature.

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Kim Gilchrist
Kim grew up in the garden state of New Jersey, but didn’t start gardening until she moved to Baltimore, where she experimented with growing a few plants in containers on her apartment balcony. While living in Baltimore, she earned a degree in business administration and worked for a number of years in retirement plan communications. It didn’t take too long for her to realize she wanted to become more involved with food, so she made her way out to Missoula and earned her Masters of Science in Environmental Studies in 2014, focusing on sustainable food system development. Since finishing school, Kim is enjoying some new-found free time to catch up on reading and hiking, learning to bake bread, and becoming a fly fisherwoman – in addition to gardening, of course.

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