Where do we go from here?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Purslane, The Wonder Plant

When I posted yesterday about my wretched gardening summer, in which I had no food crops, I forgot to mention a very important one.  I can make no claims to planting this or tending it - I have no credit whatsoever for its thriving in an empty planter where a lot of things died during the winter.  This crop is considered a noxious weed by people who have velvety lawns, and the internet is full of advice on how to remove it from your lawn or garden.  But purslane (Portulaca oleracea), the crop in question, is anything but noxious.  It is, in fact, one of the most nutritious of green plants.  My niece Jessica was the first to inform me of this plant's virtues, when it showed up in our lawn in North Truro.  Jess is a wild-forager, and very knowledgeable about herbs and edible wild plants.

Purslane (also called by older names: Verdolaga, Pigweed, Little Hogweed or Pusley), is native to India and Persia, has a lengthy history, grows all over the planet, and is eaten as just what it is, a leafy green vegetable, in most other cultures.  We have such a plentiful crop of it this year that we are eating it daily in salads, where its sour/salty taste adds flavor to the other greens. It is full of vitamins (notably A and C) and minerals (just about all of 'em), and more omega-3 fatty acids than fish oils. It is such a valuable food that last night Gail jokingly said "maybe all we should eat this summer is purslane!"  And maybe she's right; it's both free and ultra-nutritious.  But what about dark chocolate?  Maybe dessert after the purslane?  Anyway, while researching the plant for this post, I found links to tons of recipes using it, mostly for salads, but it's also recommended for stirfries.  When the weather gets cool enough to use our stove again, I will certainly throw it into my first stirfry dish.  Here are some good links for recipes and general info on purslane for your eating pleasure:




  If you have a yard or a garden, you have purslane., I promise.  You may have been weeding it out, but today's the time to start improving your health with a healthy serving of little hogweed.  Here's a photo from my planter to help you recognize it.  The purple flower is not part of the purlane plant, but a sprig of Russian sage that is flopping over onto it.  It forms a spreading mat of succulent leaves on thick round stems (all of it is edible), has small yellow flowers, grows anywhere and everywhere it can find enough sun.  It thrives even in our drought, and, as you can see, has eternally endeared itself to me this year.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oh, at last!!

And then, this evening into tonight - it rained.  When I came out of the Continuing Ed building at the University, it was starting, and as I drove to pick up our takeout dinner from Thai Vegan it really poured.  The streets were a nightmare of oily runoff after so long without rain to wash them, water in the gutters two feet deep, people driving like drunks - myself included - half the time I couldn't see a thing with all the water from the gutters and puddles being splashed on the windscreen - and it was a joy, a carnival of delight.  I called Gail to make sure it was happening at our house, and it was.  I sat out under the back portal after it got dark, soaking in the sounds and smells as the sweet slow rain kept falling.  No watering for me tonight, just sleeping with the fan blowing in the soft mists, the chorus of  deliriously happy crickets, maybe a little thunder from time to time. 

It rained, I'm saying.  It really rained, real rain. It rained!!!!

In The Good Ol' (But Very Difficult) Summertime

If it weren't for the delicious coolness of the early mornings, I think I'd be a stark raving madwoman by now. I head out as soon as it's light to see what's happening in the yard, do a little hand watering of pots, deadheading, and just commune with whatever is making it thru these deadly months.  Summer seems to be an endurance course this year, with the heat and drought the hurdles I'm having a very hard time getting over.  It is well into the monsoon season now, and though it has rained in some parts of the state, mainly northern areas,  here in the Albuquerque area there have only been spot showers of very brief duration.  We can practically count the drops.  Every afternoon the clouds build up, both east and west of the city, but aside from some thunder, nothing happens.

In the spring planting season I could already see what was coming, and we were already well into a drought (no precipitation since sometime last October), so I held off on planting anything.  No food crops this year, no lovely spring lettuce, no summer tomatoes or peppers, not even much by way of herbs.  My thyme and variegated sage bought it during the subzero winter temps, so I was only left with oregano, chives, garlic chives, mint and culinary sage. A month or so ago I couldn't stand the emptiness of my gardens, so I stupidly went to Lowe's and bought a few perennials to put in pots, deciding to simply think of them as annuals and not be upset when they didn't make it.  Which is a good thing, because most of them have already decided to leave plant hell, my yard, for plant heaven, wherever that may be.  Our water bill for last month was outrageous, so I am going to night watering only, except for things in pots which I do by hand with watering cans. I am very worried about the trees and shrubs, which I drip water, but am adding some hand watering at night when it won't evaporate.

Gardening has always been my way of enjoying the summer months, a form of recreation, exercise, enjoying the outdoor environment, as well as meditation and destressing.  This year it has become its own form of stress, which is really silly.  I'm starting to detach from obsessing on keeping things in perfect shape, just trying to keep what I can alive, and enjoying whatever IS alive, especially whatever is managing to bloom.  The yard is still full of birds, butterflies and bees, so life does go on, and I continue to hope for those afternoon clouds to drop some blessed rain before monsoon season is over.  There are some pretty good chances for this to happen later in the week.  We shall see.


Photos:  1. Geraniums in pots by front gate. 2.  This year's favorite hollyhock color.  3. A crowd of Mexican Hats.