Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's True, I Am a Weed Addict

This summer, I have been blessed with a bounty of edible weeds.

My first weedy love is purslane, which I have found in abundance. I usually just pick it, wash it off, and eat it out of hand. Because purslane has such a succulent texture, I prefer to eat it raw. When cooked, purslane has a texture similar to that of green beans. Besides the recipes linked to in this post, I found an interesting recipe for Turkish-style purslane salad (the comments on this post are hilarious- I'll do an attributed cut-and-paste at the end of the post). The lovely, gracious, and talented Aunt Snow (who is pursuing pie perfection this summer in some must-read posts) suggested finding a Persian purslane salad recipe, and a Google search turned up this recipe. Personally, I love the stuff so much, I'd substitute it for just about any green, or add it to mixed salads (if only I could refrain from wolfing sheeping it down long enough to get it into the kitchen).

So, on to the comment which had me laughing so hard- Cebtoo, in a reply to Greengirl's request for advice on how to grow purslane, writes:

To GREENGRL: Try to grow something else. Water once a week lightly. Everything else will die but your purslane will thrive with or without fertilizer, in sun or shade. Once you get some growing, break it up with a hoe. Spray it with broadleaf weed killer, it loves it. That's been my approach for years here in San Antonio and probably could grow 500 pounds or so in 100 square feet if I let it run wild.

Besides purslane, I am a huge fan of lamb's quarters, which grow in profusion around my neighborhood. Lamb's quarters compare favorably with spinach or kale- I usually snip the tops off the plants (so they'll continue to grow), then steam them for use in any recipe that calls for spinach.

Of course, dandelions are delicious, and are instantly identifable to just about everyone.

The nettles are past their prime, but they served me well in the spring. The Japanese knotweed is tough and woody, but I'm hoping to find some younger, tender shoots to munch on.

Yeah, I'm a weed addict, all right. With a little research, and a lot of patient observation, you can also pick up an addiction to weeds.

Sometimes, I am amazed at the effort and resources that people waste on their lawns- they are devoting their energy, time, and money to a plant that they cannot use, and cutting said plant to a length which mimics the length of a sheep-cropped field. When the weekend squire mows his lawn, he's not only trying to imitate the verdant green pastures of Lord Such-and-such, but he's doing it without the benefit of having a herd of sheep to do it for him (and to convert it into wool, meat, and milk). Luckily for my neighbors, I live in an apartment, but if I had a yard, I'd probably plant a lot of perennials.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Limoncello is a typical liqueur from Southern Italy- the centers of Limoncello production are centered around the Gulf of Naples and the Gulf of Salerno. Best served chilled, limoncello is a perfect after-dinner digestivo- though I would never criticize anyone for drinking it before, or during dinner, or on a lazy summer afternoon, or to chase away a winter chill, or... sorry, I was distracted by the prospect of a nice, chilled glass of limoncello.

While limoncello recipes are plentiful on the internet, here's my personal method for making it. First, thorougly wash, then peel fifteen or sixteen lemons (depending on the size of the lemons, and whether the market is selling them in lots of three or lots of four) with a vegetable peeler, making sure you are not getting any of the white pith (which will make your limoncello bitter). Place the lemon peels in a clean gallon jar and pour a gallon of pure grain alcohol (I have to drive to Connecticut to obtain the stuff) over the lemon peels, and cover. Let the mixture sit for at least a week (I leave the jar in a dark, cool corner for three weeks), then prepare a simple syrup by heating two pounds of sugar with a quart of water, and simmering until the mixture is slightly thickened. Strain the lemon peels out of the alcohol, and add the syrup to the infused alcohol (I use a couple of one-gallon pitchers for this stage of the production). Dilute the resultant syrup/alcohol mixture with water until the desired strength is reached (I use a 50/50 ratio, making the resultant liqueur about as strong as a typical vodka). Strain again, and bottle the stuff. Keep away from small children and open flames. A few hours before serving, place the bottle in the freezer to chill. If necessary, dilute individual servings to taste... the stuff is strong.

Here's a still life which incorporates the ingredients of this delicious treat. Look at that forlorn lemon, which has been robbed of its golden integument. Also, note that the contents of the gallon jar, with an alcohol content around 95%, have a clear golden color, while the glass of limoncello in the center has a milky translucency. This is the same effect one sees when one mixes water with absinthe- as the percentage of alcohol decreases, the oil from the lemon peels forms a microemulsion in the glass:

La dolce vita, served by the glass.