VERDOLAGA

The first place it appeared was in a crack between the blocks of cement on the sidewalk outside the café. I jolted to a halt and stared. By golly, if it didn’t look like “verdolaga”!But –the mind said in very I-know terms- that it wasn’t possible. This was France and in France something as lowly as “verdolaga” could not exist. So, being that the mind speaking its truth so definitely and knowingly evokes acquiescence, I immediately wrote my recognition off as a mistake.

However, as spring moved into July and summer, the innocent little plant began to appear all over the place and every time it was sighted all my instincts said “verdolaga” without even a hesitation. Finally, leaning down as discretely as possible in the middle of the sidewalk, I picked a branch and lifted it closer to my face. “Verdolaga” without a doubt. “Not possible” my mind sniffed and turned the other way shocked at the commonness of someone picking a rogue plant from a crack in the sidewalk where, no doubt, some passing dog had peed.

Putting my reading glasses on, I checked the characteristics: small, fat, green leaves on slightly reddish stalks; lies close to the ground, spreads in all directions and sports a tiny yellow flower. Well, if it wasn’t “verdolaga” it was a very, very close, albeit a French, cousin.

Maybe my memory was failing me and the yummy little sprout that we so often put in pork stew with green tomato sauce was completely different. Green tomatoes, by the way, are not unripe red tomatoes, but a variety all of its own called also “tomatillos”; they never turn red but rather a very pale yellow when overripe, and come naturally packaged in a paper like skin which must be removed before cooking.Verdolaga stewed in green tomato sauce with pork or chicken is a common dish in Mexico and one of my favorites, so I was duly motivated to find out if what I held in my hand was actually that savory plant. . “Verdolaga” my instinct insisted over and above my clamoring mind. I carried the snipping home and turned on the computer. On Google Search I typed in “Verdolaga” and clicked. The familiar images immediately sprung up:

            Even then, with the physical evidence in my hand and the scientific truth laid out in front of me on the computer screen, I doubted. So I began to read. The lowly “verdolaga” is also known as “portulaca oleracea” and in English “purslane” (also pigweed, little hogweed and pusley) and has been used as a vegetable for over four thousand years by European, Asiatic, African and (I add) Latin-American cultures! Now I am impressed. It was cultivated in Al-Andalus and was eaten both cooked and raw. Some experts believe that it was originally an American plant that reached Europe, Africa and Asia in pre-Columbian times (I wonder if it swam over).

       Ahhh, my inconspicuous verdolaga also has medicinal properties and has long been used to cure urinary irritations, constipation, gingivitis, abscesses, conjunctivitis and several skin dis-eases. It’s full of nutritious elements like the highly sought-after Omega-3 that I spend a lot of money obtaining through fish oil; over and above that it is a juicy green succulent with a slightly sour-salty taste that is good in salads, soups and stews. It’s hard to believe! Is it possible I have been eating this marvel all my life and always thinking I was eating “poor-peoples” food? Why in the United States is it considered a “weed” to be pulled out and herbicided, when its nutritional and medicinal value is much higher than spinach which Americans are willing to pay  for, the Popeye scam notwithstanding? No way: I am falling in love with verdolaga.

Once identified, the verdolaga of my heart must be found for that which I have seen growing against walls, in flowerbeds and out of the cracks in the sidewalk has probably been fertilized by the town’s dogs. So I head for a place where dogs do not roam: the communal gardens a short way behind the building where I live. And sure enough: there, growing to its heart content are clumps and clumps of delicious verdolaga, sprouting both amongst the veggies and on the mounds of last year’s compost and earth heaps.

I pick a basket full, return home, separate the tender juicy leaves and stems from the dirt-filled roots, sauté them in olive oil with a little chopped onion, add a can of tomatoes and some cooked chicken meat and sit down to a banquet. All I need now is the chili sauce and the Mexican tortillas. Of course, if I had had some green tomatoes or tomatillos, everything would have been perfect.

Below: some recipes found on internet but not yet tried.

Cucumber Purslane Salad:

The combination of cucumber and Purslane is like a good wedding or couple; we can get the ultimate taste with their union. Ingredients to be kept ready are
• 3 average sized cucumbers neatly sliced
• 1 cup of Purslane leaves
• ½ cup of yogurt
• ½ tablespoon of olive oil
• 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar (it can better try your favorite herbal vinegars)
• 1 tablespoon of well chopped mint.
• ¼ teaspoon of coarse pepper (black)

Procedure to be followed
• Take salad bowl and put the sliced cucumber and Purslane.
• Put the other ingredients which are kept ready in a blender for the purpose of dressing.
• Then apply the dressing of ingredient mix to the mixture of cucumber and purslane.
• The recipe is ready to make it chill for serving.
• It would be better to coat with dressing just before serving, the above method will make 4 servings.

Purslane Green Bean Marinade:

Ingredients to be kept ready are
• 2 cups of green beans.
• 2 cups of purslane leaves
• 2 cups of cooked beans or 1 can of cooked beans ( optionally we can go for kidney beans, lima beans or garbanzos)
• 1 minced small onion

For Dressing
• ½ cup of olive oil
• ¼ cup of vinegar ( it can better try your favorite herbal vinegars )
• 1 garlic clove
• A pinch of salt
• 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoon of honey
• 2/3 cup of wild green ( fresh and chopped)
• Prepare the dressing with all the above by whizzing all the above in a food processor or a blender.

Procedure to be followed
• Boil the green beans until they become and let them to cool.
• Then rinse the cooked beans so as to clear the water.
• Add green beans, raw and fresh Purslane and onion together in a bowl.
• Now add the dressing and let it sit for whole night.
• The recipe is ready to serve.
The above method can work for 6 to 8 servings (to be chilled before serving).

Purslane Gazpacho:

Gazpacho is prepared with fresh and raw summer vegetable which come late in garden. The Purslane then comes in its fresh greens so it would help to add to the Gazpacho recipes which will be mild and sweet. Ingredients to be kept ready are
• 4 cups of tomato juice
• 2 cups of tomatoes diced
• 1 peeled and minced cucumber
• 2 cups of Purslane leaves ( chop them only if they are very large)
• ½ cup of finely minced green scallions or onion
• 1 finely minced garlic clove
• 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar ( or your favorite herbal vinegars )
• 1 teaspoon of basil
• 1 teaspoon of tarragon
• ¼ to ½ teaspoon of cumin
• ¼ cup of minced parsley
• 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
• Salt and pepper for taste

Procedure to be followed
• Mix all of the above ingredients.
• Take the mixture and put in food processor or a blender
• Keep it to chill to make it very cold.
• Garnish with Purslane or use it as sprig for serving.
The above method can work for 6 nourishing servings (to be chilled before serving). It would be best for taste when taken along with some chips or sourdough garlic bread.
Purslane Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes:

The recipe is simple yet has very beautiful look of Purslane.
Ingredients to be kept ready are
• 6 cups of cooked pasta.
• 3 cups of raw and fresh Purslane leaves
• 2 cups of cut in half cherry tomatoes
• ½ cup of green onion, minced

For Dressing
• Half cup of olive oil
• ¼th cup vinegar (better try your favorite herbal vinegars )
• 1 clove of garlic
• pinch of salt
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoon of honey
• 2/3 cup of wild green ( fresh and chopped) or parsley
• Prepare the dressing with all the above by whizzing all the above in a food processor or in a blender.

Procedure to be followed
• Add pasta, cherry tomatoes, Purslane and onions in a bowl
• Add the dressing and let it sit for whole night in a fridge.
• Very good to serve in cold.
Additionally you can add cheese, pepperoni or something else which you would prefer in your pasta to make it variable endlessly.

Purslane Spanish rice:

Purslane is usually cooked in a recipe, it would better add some extra taste and good amount of nutrients when added about 1 cup of raw Purslane to the recipe at the end of preparation.
Ingredients to be kept ready are
• 3 cups of rice
• 3 tablespoons of olive oil
• 2 cups of Purslane Salsa
• 1 teaspoon of salt

Procedure to be followed
• Add and mix the olive oil with rice in a low bottom jar or pot
• To this, add about 6 cups of water or even 9 cups of water when the wild rice is used
• Add Purslane Salsa and salt.
• Simmer the whole contents for about 20 minutes in a briskly fashion or until rice is cooked.
• Optionally can be cooked for drier texture.
• The recipe is ready to serve.

Purslane Salsa:

Purslane can be added to any of your favorite salsa recipe which can help to make the recipe thicken, also tomatillos in Purslane Salsa is a wonderful recipe
Ingredients to be kept ready are
• 4 cups of fresh tomatillos
• 2 cups of Purslane leaves
• 4-5 green chilies, well roasted, seeds removed and peeled.
• 3 garlic cloves well crushed
• ¼ cup of fresh and minced cilantro
• ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt

Procedure to be followed
• Add tomatillos in a food processor or in a blender and whiz well.
• Then put the above tomatillos in a pot and simmer for about 15 minutes and make it chill and cool.
• Purslane leaves are to be chopped coarsely
• Put everything together and mix, add salt to taste.

BON APPÉTIT

2 thoughts on “VERDOLAGA

  1. Wow! Now you are becoming a well and curious cook! It was delightful to acompany you through these lines in your wonderful discovery! Enjoy to the full. You have made me crave for them too. Although I can go to the market and get some …never as fresh as yours!

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