Weed Happy

April 29, 2008 at 3:35 pm 21 comments

Pesto and cheese close up

The other day something so utterly bizarre happened that I literally stopped in my tracks and stared, mouth agape. There, among a box of seeds sitting on a neighbors porch, was a packet of purslane seeds!   Any gardener worth his or her salt knows that purslane is a nasty invasive weed that can take over a garden plot in a week if left to its own devices.  Who the heck would sell its seeds?  And why the heck would anyone buy them?  Sadly, I know the answer to both those questions.  Purslane has recently become a highly favored gourmet addition to salads and such in upscale restaurants.  I’m guessing some marketing guru got the notion to sell its seeds, not knowing enough about its cultivation to realize it was a weed!  I could only shake my head in disbelief.

Garlic Mustard

Eating weeds is not a new concept though.  In fact, I think it’s one that should be highly encouraged, with a little weed identification education of course.  Don’t go out and eat just any weed. Only some are edible.  But once you know what is edible – and some are quite delicious – go get ‘em! 

Flowers of garlic mustard

It certainly is a unique way to clean out the invasive species from your garden or local park.  One caveat though when foraging for edible weeds: be sure you know if they’ve been sprayed.  It’s best to get them out of your own garden or overgrown backyard if you can. And let’s face it, we all have a weed or two somewhere.  

Roots of garlic mustard

I’ve been doing a lot of weed pulling in my new line of work/study and one that repeatedly rears its unusually pretty head is garlic mustard.  It’s a member of the Brassicaceae family (the one with broccoli and cabbage in it), and it gets the same small white flowers when it bolts into seed.  It spends its first year low to the ground though as a mounded rosette of deep green kidney-shaped leaves.  It’s a little harder to identify if you don’t know what you’re looking for, but I think these younger clumps make for better eating. 

Pre processing

While pulling a few hundred garlic mustard plants, I meditated on the name and decided it surely must be edible with a name that included two delicious flavor agents.  After a little research, I learned it was once a very regular part of the colonial diet as an herb and salad green, particularly in winter when not much other green leafy stuff was available (garlic mustard pops its head up before anything else in the Northeast which is one of the reasons why it’s such a “successful” weed).  Since it’s a prolific seeder, at some point it no doubt got out in the woods where it grew like crazy in the shade and has ever since been the scourge of all those horticulturalist intent upon preserving native undergrowth in our woodlands. 

Garlic Mustard Pesto

I’m always intrigued by older food traditions and the idea of putting a weed to good use, much like my beloved sorrel (weed-turned-delicacy), set my cook senses tingling.  Since I was thinking of sorrel as a good cultural comparison and maybe even somewhat similar in flavor, I decided to revisit the recipe I created for sorrel almond pesto to see if I could make a spring version of that more summery dish.  I still have some frozen basil on hand and instead of fresh tomatoes accompanying the pesto, I put the last of my oven-dried tomatoes to use.  Presto, some fresh *spring* pesto!   And a few less weeds in my yard to boot!

This pesto really is quite tasty with an emphasis on garlic and a hint of mustard heat.  I think it’d be great toss with some hot pasta and sautéed asparagus too.  Both the leaves and the roots of garlic mustard are edible so I threw in both for good measure, but I’m not sure if one is better than the other.  I think I might try the leaves as an addition to my next salad too.  If we all pitch in and do the same, this “weed” might actually get back to its rightful place – the table – and get out of our woods. 

Assembling toast

Garlic Mustard Pesto
A Straight from the Farm Original

1 C. tightly packed garlic mustard leaves, stems removed
1 T. chopped garlic mustard root
1 large clove of garlic, roughly chopped
2 T. frozen basil (thawed) OR  ½ C. fresh, chopped
¼ C. slivered almonds
Pinch of salt
¼ C. extra virgin olive oil

Carefully wash the garlic mustard leaves and roots.  Roughly chop the leaves and roots and place in a food processor or blender.  Add the garlic, basil, almonds and salt.  Give these ingredients a whirl, pulsing and scrapping down the sides, until it becomes a gritty paste.  Add the olive oil and process until it forms a creamy spread.

Pesto can be stored up to a week in an air-tight container in the fridge or stored frozen for several months. 

(makes ½ cup)


Garlic Mustard Pesto and Oven Dried Tomato Bites

Garlic Mustard Pesto and Oven Dried Tomato Bites
Adapted from this recipe

¼ c. garlic mustard pesto
¼ c. oven dried tomatoes*
1 c. shredded mozzarella
Loaf of sourdough French bread, sliced 1 inch thick

*If using the oven dried tomatoes, reconstitute them by placing in hot water for five minutes.  Drain and dab with a towel before tossing in two tablespoons of olive oil and letting sit until pliable and soft.  Roughly chop prior to using.   If you don’t have the oven dried tomatoes, just use sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, draining off the oil and chopping. 

Spread slices of bread with a generous layer of pesto.  Top with chopped tomatoes and mozzarella.  Place under a hot broiler for 2 to 3 minutes until cheese is melted and golden brown.  Serve immediately. 

(serves 8-10 as appetizers)

Final Plating

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Entry filed under: Purely Vegetables, Recipes. Tags: , , , .

Better Late Than Never April Showers

21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gintoino  |  April 30, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Purslane was invading my garden last year until I decided to make soup out of it ;-)
    I made Purslane soup (Sopas de beldroegas) which is a traditional dish from the Alentejo (southern region of Portugal), with bread, garlic, purslane and that great white cheese that you liked when you were here. It is a great recipe and the purslane is now gone from my garden (haven’t seen one this spring). I think its a great way of dealing with weeds. Now if only I could find such a way to get rid of the Chrysanthemum coronarium that invades the garden every spring…..

    Reply
  • 2. Maggie  |  April 30, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Great job doing your part getting rid of the plague that is garlic mustard! The pesto sounds like a great idea and I’ve never eaten the roots. A friend in collage made the best pickled purslane stems. I need to hunt down a recipe and make them, they were so good. It seems crazy that people are planting purslane. I feel that way about people who plant lemon balm or mint in their garden beds, they’re just asking for a fight.

    Did you know that you can eat japanese knotweed shoots? I didn’t and that is everywhere around here. I just saw this article this spring: http://www.culinate.com/search/q,vt=top,q=knotweed/72418

    Reply
  • 3. Fotocuisine  |  April 30, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    that is a whole lotta green eating, but it sounds and looks so good, that I could actually go for it (i try to like veggies, but I’m a slow learner :D)

    Reply
  • 4. Commune Tested, City Approved  |  May 1, 2008 at 5:41 am

    Purslane is super yummy! We used to eat it back on the commune, long before it became trendy. And you’re right, there’s no need to plant it in most gardens. But it certainly is a welcome treat when it shows up.

    Reply
  • 5. bee  |  May 1, 2008 at 8:55 am

    dear jennie, you have mail.

    Reply
  • 6. Nif  |  May 1, 2008 at 9:18 am

    Weeds are just plants in the wrong place. My current garden doesn’t tend to accumulate as much purslane as we could eat, so I could imagine planting it. It is super-high in omega-3 fatty acids and yummy too.

    I’ve read that wild plants in general are higher in omega-3s, I guess because nobody is coddling them.

    Sometimes things just go a little wild. So far this year our biggest weed problems are cherry tomatoes and arugula!

    Reply
  • 7. Keenahn  |  May 1, 2008 at 10:49 am

    I can’t wait to try this!!! Looks like I’m shopping for some garlic mustard this weekend =D

    Reply
  • 8. noble pig  |  May 1, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    I never would have guessed. This was a very interesting post and I enjoyed learning something new.

    The crostini look divine.

    Reply
  • 9. Hillary  |  May 1, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    The sundried tomatoes really seem to meld the flavors together. Nicely done!

    Reply
  • 10. Kristen  |  May 1, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    I am officially hungry! That looks so good!

    Reply
  • 11. Tempered Woman  |  May 2, 2008 at 10:13 am

    The question is, did you tackle your neighbor and warn them before they planted? I had a very simliar conversation with my mom about mint. I told her to take it back to the store and I’d be happy to bring some over for her when I got done weeding out my blackberry bushes. heh
    I love that you gave a recipe for the mustard. I honestly had no idea it was edible! Thanks.

    Reply
  • 12. Free Simple Recipes  |  May 3, 2008 at 8:05 am

    That is so wonderfully delicious looking!

    Nice photos too.

    must try it myself…
    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • 13. jj  |  May 3, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Fascinating read! I’ve been catching bits and pieces about how weeds are used in cooking and am intrigued. To think, a weed! lol

    Reply
  • 14. rhonda jean  |  May 4, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    We have been adding golden purslane to our salads for a few years now. It’s highly nutritious and well worth growing.

    Nice blog. I’ve just found you, via badhuman.

    Reply
  • 15. ApK  |  May 5, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Brilliant and inspiring! Too bad most of the invasive plant invaders here are of the african iceplant variety…but this does make me think very differently about the sorts of plants that I might consider weeds!

    Reply
  • 16. Mary  |  May 13, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Hi, I just found your blog, but I wish I’d found it earlier this week so that I would have known garlic mustard was edible! My mom and stepdad came down to help me plant my garden and my mom and I pulled up all the garlic mustard. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled to see if more of it pops up! Thanks for all the information!

    Reply
  • 17. bill  |  May 18, 2009 at 8:18 am

    I’m about a year behind your original post but have found this interesting! I’ve posted a link to this on my own blog, Photo Synthesis – A Photographer Tries to Garden. Thanks for the recipe and thoughts in general.

    Reply
  • 18. More on Garlic Mustard… « Photo-Synthesis  |  May 18, 2009 at 8:26 am

    [...] Here is someone who has come upon a unique way to control them. She eats them. Jennie includes a recipe for Garlic Mustard Pesto. Please note her cautions about eating weeds, however. [...]

    Reply
  • [...] and Carrot Salad Roasted Garlic Scapes and New Potatoes Garlic Mustard Pesto Pea Shoots in Fillo [...]

    Reply
  • 20. More on Garlic Mustard… « photo-synthesis  |  February 13, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    [...] Here is someone who has come upon a unique way to control them. She eats them. Jennie includes a recipe for Garlic Mustard Pesto. Please note her cautions about eating weeds, however. Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 8:25 am Uncategorized Feed Comments Previous Next [...]

    Reply
  • 21. ChefInMaking  |  November 13, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    just saw this today. Looks delicious.
    I love the taste of pesto and here is my attempt to make something with pesto.

    http://chefinmaking.com/basil-pesto-and-tomato-sandwich

    Thanks
    Sonia

    Reply

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