You know that nasty weed that keeps popping up all over the garden? Well I ate it! Just so you know and in case you find me on the floor foaming at the mouth you'll know what to tell them in the ER.
Let me start at the beginning. I'm not much of a gardener but I do love growing things. A few months ago, I came across some packets of seeds that must have been at least 2 years old. I wasn't at all optimistic about them sprouting but on the off chance that they might, I planted them in some seed flats. After 3 weeks, I was very excited to see that my seeds had sprouted. Wow! I really did not expect it and so many of them too. Hoorah! I diligently watered my sprouts.
As time went by and the first true leaves started to form, I grew suspicious. My tomato seedlings looked the same as my eggplant, which looked a lot like my peppers and so on. Huh? Darn it! They were weeds and they were everywhere. They were in between my flowers, in my pots, in amongst my herbs and even in the cracks of the garden path. Once a month I engaged in the seemingly pointless activity of pulling them out only to have them return - as weeds are want to do - winking at me with little, yellow-flower eyes.
One day I was hanging out on a recipe forum when a woman in France posted a photo of a lovely salad. I blinked twice and stared. The greens on her plate looked a lot like my weeds!
Holy Cow! I had an epiphany. I ran outside and looked at my weeds. Those yellow flowers winked at me but this time I winked back! Then I headed indoors to dream up recipes for their demise.
Three months later I still hadn't tried them. I wasn't brave enough. Two Caribbean plant books contained pen and ink illustrations and botanical descriptions of what looked like my weed. I read long winded descriptions of leaf shape and pattern, something about ovate, ovoid, spatulate leaves blah, blah, blah. There was a lot of 'to-ing and fro-ing' on my part, to the glossary and main text. Eventually I did what any right minded thinking person would do. I called a perfect stranger on a Sunday afternoon and asked. "There is a weed in my yard, can I eat it? "
Professor Julian Kenny is considered an authority on biodiversity in Trinidad and Tobago. He was a lecturer and Head of zoology in the faculties of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. The Professor doesn't know this but I am a HUGE fan. No, I don't know him personally, unless you count the fact that I sporadically read his articles in the newspaper.
I am sure he must have thought I was crazy, ringing him up and possibly disturbing his Sunday siesta to say that I was eating weeds and thinking of feeding them to my family. I was nervous and I am sure barely coherent as I rambled on about doing research for an article. I also mentioned not wanting to kill my children with a salad that I was making for dinner.
Yes, he knew the plant but was more familiar with a pink variety which grew in sandy soils. To be certain, he advised that I make inquiries at the Herbarium, which is located at the University of the West Indies. For all I know Professor Kenny may have been rolling his eyes skyward on the the other end but none of this was revealed in normalcy of his tone. He was exceedingly gracious and acted for all the world like it was the most natural thing for a housewife to call him asking if she could eat her front lawn for dinner.
A week later I had my answer, my weed had a name. It was Portulaca oleracea L. better known as Purslane or Pussley. I was also very pleased to learn that it is a highly nutritious vegetable that is currently being touted as a superfood due to it's high Omega 3 content- the highest of any plant.
Sadly, it seems that we have lost knowledge of this lovely vegetable. I wonder if it is still a commonly used ingredient in other Caribbean islands? If you are from the Caribbean and recognize this plant, please leave me some feedback in the comments section. I would love to know what it is called on your island and how you use it.
Here is a purslane salad I made some months ago. I am submitting this to the Weekend Herb Blogging Event hosted by Anna's Cool Finds. The good news is that no one ended up in the hospital - not even a tummy ache:-) Purslane tastes a lot like watercress but not as pungent. We all really enjoyed it and I plan to use it in a number of different ways from now on.