Saturday, August 25, 2007

Foraged Salad for Breakfast

You never know what delights you might come across messing in the garden.

Today is supposed to be one of the hottest of the summer so I was out early weeding. The bed where I have been growing beets was mostly overrun with crabgrass. And I should say I've been completely derelict about harvesting those beets, but that's another story coming up soon.

I want to get this bed ready for planting salad and other greens for the fall. So it was time to do a little digging with the forked spade and get down on all fours to get my hands dirty. The spade sinks easily into the soil. We've had a fair amount of rain lately, which makes weeding all the more easy. I grab clumps of grass and they come up with great root balls. Shake them vigorously and knock them against the ground to remove all that rich soil and save it for the garden.

In the process, I uncovered a lovely bunch of arugula--a complete surprise, since the arugula I planted in the spring bolted back in May. I hate to be without arugula in the garden, so this was a great find. I set it aside. Then, not too much later, I pulled up a handful of perfectly happy mizzuna, hidden in the grasses. Only my love for arugula surpasses my feelings for mizzuna. Its peppery bite is a flavorful addition to salads, so I set that aside as well.

Plunge spade, grab weeds, throw weeds in bucket for compost pile--I was moving right along. Then I noticed one, then two, then three clumps of purslane. Purslane is a succulent with redish stems and clusters of small round leaves. It grows like a weed around the garden or sometimes out of cracks in the sidewalk. It is edible, and just recently I learned that purslane is the number one source of Omega-3 fatty acids among green leafy vegetables, those being the same heart-healthy Omega-3s that are so sought after in fatty fish such as salmon.

Personally, I think purslane is an acquired taste. The flavor is mild and somewhat citrusy, but the texture can be mucilaginous and off-putting. I can't stomach it cooked (give me okra any day). But I was confident it would blend nicely in a salad with the stronger tasting arugula and mizzuna, and then I'd have the benefit of all those fatty acids, as well as the many vitamins purslane confers: A, C and E, plus potassium, calcium and iron.

By the time I'd finished weeding, I thought I had the beginnings of breakfast. A nice plump carrot had offered itself during my digging. I cleaned that and ran it through the mandoline for julienne. I also had some yellow cherry tomatoes picked a couple of days ago, a few cooked green beans stashed in the fridge, and part of a loaf of rustic bread that I turned into cubes.

So here was the finished salad, foraged fresh from the garden: arugula and mizzuna leaves, purslane, julienned carrots, cherry tomatoes, green beans, rustic bread. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice and a bit of rice vinegar. Season with course salt and freshly ground black pepper. Some goat cheese or grated parmesan would work nicely as well.


DownHome Girl said...

Sounds perfect - I Iove purslane tossed in my salad too.

Now about the weeds.... you compost crabgrass too? I was warned not to throw in the ton of crabgrass I spent all week removing from my veggie patch -- not sure why I should not, but I collected it all in a yard bag. What's your advice?

Ed Bruske said...

Crabgrass should not be a problem in your compost as long as you catch it before it goes to seed. Problems with compost start with weed seeds. Unless you can guarantee your compost will reach 160 degrees and you manage it faithfully, do not put seeds of any kind in your compost. They will sprout later in the garden. Even if you can't pull on the weeds, at least cut them down before they go to seed.

Of course, it's almost impossible to avoid weeds. But spreading them through your compost just doubles the injury.