native to: India and Iran
in season here: summer

Also called pigweed, verdolago, or little hopweed, Portulaca oleracea is often considered a weed around here — or at best, a readily available green mulch. It’s tolerant of both drought and poor soil. Leaves, smaller stems, and flower buds appear in many Asian and European cuisines, especially South Indian dishes. It can be eaten raw in salads, stir-fried, or curried. It is often compared to arugula or spinach and can be used similarly.

Purslane is higher in omega-3 fatty acids than some fish oils, making it popular among vegans. In fact, it’s generally considered to be the richest cultivated plant source of omega-3s, rivaled only by certain wild greens like molokhia and stamnagathi. It has plenty of vitamins A, C, E, and some Bs; its mineral offerings include iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. It’s an excellent source of anti-oxidants and a particularly good source of alpha-linolenic acid, which has been linked to coronary health and general longevity. Along with amaranth, lamb’s quarters greens, watercress, and lettuce, purslane is one of the richest herbal sources of anti-depressant substances.

Purslane doesn’t keep very well, which may be why it’s so hard to find, especially for those who lack a good farmers’ market. It starts to lose nutrition as soon as it’s harvested, so the fresher you can eat it, the better. It spreads readily, making some gardeners reluctant to grow their own, but it can be grown in containers to help control it (just don’t let it go to seed). It also makes a good microgreen.

It should be noted that purslane is a source of oxalic acid and should be avoided or eaten with caution by those susceptible to calcium-oxalate kidney stones or urinary issues such as bladder stones, or with other oxalic acid concerns. Pregnant women are also commonly advised to avoid purslane, which promotes uterine contractions and can cause miscarriage.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw purslane
label-style nutrition information for cooked purslane
Health With Food
Natural Health Solutions

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Sweet & sour onions with golden raisins

1 lb. small red or white onions, trimmed
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves
small piece fresh hot pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. honey
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup golden raisins (sultanas)
salt and pepper to taste

Blanch onions 1 minute; drain, rinse under cold water, and slip off skins. Heat garlic and pepper in oil until oil is hot, about 2 minutes. Add onions and saute until lightly golden, 8-10 minutes. Add honey, cloves, and bay leaf. Reduce heat and cook gently 2 min. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer 20 min. Remove cover and simmer until juices reduce to a glaze, about 2 minutes. Remove pepper and bay leaf and adjust seasonings.

Adapted from: From the farmers’ market : wonderful things to do with fresh-from-the-farm food with recipes and recollections from farm kitchens / Richard Sax with Sandra Gluck. Harper & Row, c1986.

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Peach pie for dinner!

Chicken and peach pie
2-3 lb. chicken (best with skin and bones, which add flavor, but a smaller amount of skinless/boneless chicken can be used)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
2 ribs celery, in 2-inch pieces
1 leek with a little green, in 2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
4 whole cloves
5 medium peaches (1 1/2 lb), peeled*, pitted, and sliced into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup white wine
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp. cold water
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. water (optional)
double pie crust for 9-10-inch pie pan

Rub the chicken all over with salt, pepper, and ginger. In a large pot, lightly brown chicken, onion, celery, and leek in oil over medium heat, about 15 minutes. Add stock and whole cloves; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 1 1/4 hours. Remove chicken, reserving cooking liquid and vegetables, and cool slightly. Remove and discard skin and bones; cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Mix meat with peaches, wine, garlic, ginger; cover and chill. Remove cloves from the cooking liquid and discard; puree liquid and vegetables. Chill (may quick-chill by freezing about 45 minutes) and skim off fat. Combine puree and cornstarch/water mixture, add to chicken, and stir until well-blended. Grease a 10 x 6 1/2 x 2-inch casserole or 9-10 x 2-inch round dish and line with 1/8 inch thick pie crust dough, leaving 1 1/2 inch overhang. Fill with chicken mixture. Top with second crust and seal with water. Pierce top and brush with egg if desired. Bake 30 min at 400F then lower oven to 350F and bake another 20 min. Allow to cool 10 min. before serving.

Adapted from: Cooking with fruit : the complete guide to using fruit throughout the meal, the day, the year / Rolce Redard Payne and Dorrit Speyer Senior. Wings Books, 1995.

*See following recipe for the easiest way to peel peaches.

If you bought extra peaches (and who wouldn’t be tempted?) how about drying them for later snacking:

Oven-dried peaches
Blanch peaches in boiling water for a few seconds and quickly remove to cold water; skins should slip off easily. Halve and remove pits; cut into smaller pieces if desired. Optionally, place in acidulated water to prevent discoloration. Arrange pieces cut-side down on a wire rack over a foil-lined baking tray; place in a 225F oven, leaving door slightly ajar. Dry 24-36 hrs for halves, 12-16 hrs for quarters, 8-12 hrs for smaller pieces, turning pieces halfway through drying.

Adapted from: Preserving fruit : 101 essential tips / Oded Schwartz. DK Pub., 1998.

More about peaches.

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Newsletters: 31 Aug 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 31 Aug 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
Carrots come in many colors: orange, yellow, red, purple, white, and black. Known scientifically as Daucus carota, they belong to the belong to the apiaceae or umbelliferous family, along with parsnips, parsley, dill, and cumin. The carrot is a biennial, and will flower in the second year if it doesn’t get eaten first.

Carrots are rich in copper, calcium, potassium, manganese and phosphorus, vitamins B,C,D,E, and of course beta-carotene, which gives them that familiar orange color. The skin has the most nutrients, and a quick boil can make the nutrients, wherever they are, more available to the body. These are details, however — the best way to prepare any vegetable is, when it comes right down to it, the way you’re most likely to eat it. Carrots are good against cancer, eye trouble, heart disease, stroke, fat and age in general, and good for skin and teeth. Did you know the greens are edible? I think I’ve mentioned that before, but didn’t know that carrot greens are a good source of vitamin K, which the carrot root doesn’t provide.

It is actually posible to eat too many carrots, although most people can only accomplish it by drinking carrot juice. Carotenemia is the medical term for increased blood levels of the pigment carotene, and it can be recognized when the skin turns yellow or orange — it usually clears up in a few days if you lay off the carrots (do not confuse carotenemia with lycopenemia, which is caused by too many tomatoes and turns the skin red). Too much carotene can cause jaundice, a more serious problem, and too much vitamin A can damage the liver (note: polar bear liver is extremely high in vitamin A and can cause vitamin A poisoning, so arctic explorers are advised to avoid it).

In the kitchen
I love the smell of fennel, the beautiful delicate fronds… but once you get it home, then what? Here are some ideas from one of my old standby reference cookbooks, James Peterson’s Vegetables.

Grilled fennel
fennel bulbs, stalks removed
olive oil
Peel off any thick fibers from the outside of the bulb. If bulbs are thicker than 1.5 inches, split them down the middle; cut largest bulbs into 3-6 wedges. Toss with oil and grill 10-15 min. per side, until light brown.

Fennel mashed potatoes
1 bulb fennel
1.5 lb. potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4 to 1/2 c milk (may use cooking liquid for some of this)
4-6 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
Remove stalks from the fennel and cut the bulb in half; thinly slice. Bring potatoes and fennel to a boil in enough water to cover halfway; reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 25 min. (well, check at 15 for local ones — ed.). Drain and mash the potatoes and fennel. Heat milk and melt the butter into it; add to potatoes and stir in. Season to taste and, if necessary, rewarm in the cooking pot.
Variation: if you have trouble with fennel lumps, cook it separately until very soft, puree in a blender and strain into the potatoes.

Italian-style cardoon and bean soup with garlic and fennel
1 small bulb fennel, stalks removed, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 c dried great northern, cannellini, or cranberry beans, soaked 3-5 hr. in warm water and drained
6 c broth or water, plus more as needed
1 bunch cardoons
4 med. tomatoes (or 24 oz. drained canned tomatoes) peeled, seeded, and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley or basil
grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Heat fennel, garlic, and onion in the oil. stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 10 min. Add beans and broth; simmer, partially covered, until beans are soft and not mealy when bitten, 1.5 hr. Remove and discard outer stalks of the cardoon; cut smaller stalks in half lengthwise and peel, then cut into 4-inch pieces. Gently simmer in 3 qt. water and a little lemon juice 15-20 min.; drain and slice into 1/4-inch pieces and freeze all but 2 c for later use. When the beans are cooked, add cardoons and tomatoes and simmer 5 min.; add water or broth to thin the soup if desired. Season; stir in parsley or basil and serve with Parmesan.

Cardoons, by the way, are related to the artichoke and thistle and can be a little hard to find. They grow well here but don’t usually show up in markets much (possibly because they can be a little aggressive. OK, invasive). I planted one in my front yard once, but my neighbor thought it was a giant thistle and very kindly cut it down for me. Sigh. I get the impression that celery might be a good substitute, perhaps with some adjustment of cooking times.

Thanks for your interest in our community and its market.

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Newsletters: 24 Aug 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 24 Aug 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
Tomatoes are native to central America and were cultivated by the Aztecs. They belong to the nightshade family, which also includes chili peppers, potatoes, and eggplants. This may be why people in some places and times have been leery of eating them. Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, manganese, and the anti-oxidant lycopene, which gives them their red color. Other flavinoid compounds in tomatoes are good for the eyes. Tomatoes are also helpful against urinary tract infections, skin ailments, diabetes, thrombosis (blood clots), inflammation, and hypertension. Cooking tomatoes actually makes the lycopene more accessible, especially when eaten with a little fat or oil — so it could be argued that spaghetti is a health food (I’ll take any excuse I can get).

In the kitchen
With much less fanfare than the carrots, apricots, and blueberries, the humble cabbage has arrived at the market. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing to do with cabbage is shred it and fry it up in bacon fat, but many people prefer to make it into cole slaw or sauerkraut.

Sweet and sour cole slaw
6 c (1 lb.) red or green cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt or 1 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. celery seed
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 c rice wine vinegar (use cider vinegar if making ahead)
pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients but oil, vinegar, and pepper; let stand in a colander 1-4 hours, until cabbage wilts. Discard drained liquid and remove to bowl; add oil and vinegar and toss to coat. Season to taste. May be refrigerated, covered, up to 2 days.
Variation: add 1 tsp. curry powder, 1 peeled, chopped apple, and 1/4 c raisins with the oil and vinegar.
From: The best recipe / by the editors of Cook’s illustrated. Boston Common Press, c1999.

Mixed pickles (aka Compost)
2 lb. mixed parsley roots, carrots, radishes, turnips, peeled, thinly sliced
1 lb. white cabbage, cored and shredded
1 lb. hard eating pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
6 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. saffron strands
2 c white wine vinegar, divided
2 oz. currants
2.5 c fruity white wine
6 Tbsp. clear honey
1 tsp. French mustard
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. anise seed
1/4 tsp. fennel seed
2 oz. white sugar
Slowly bring root vegetables and cabbage to a boil in a large pan of water; add pears. Cook until pears start to soften; drain and spread in a 2-inch layer in a shallow, non-metallic dish. Sprinkle with salt, ginger, saffron, and 4 Tbsp. vinegar. Cover and let sit 12 hours. Rinse well and add currants. Pack into sterilized jars, leaving at least 1 inch headspace. Bring wine and honey to a simmer; skim. Add remaining ingredients, including the rest of the vinegar. Reduce heat and stir without boiling until sugar dissolves. Return to a boil and pour over vegetables, covering them by 1/2 inch. Cover with vinegar-proof seals.
From: The medieval cookbook / Maggie Black. British Museum Press, c1992.

Cabbage the Athenian way
1 small white cabbage, finely sliced, washed, drained
2 heaped tsp. chopped fresh green coriander in oil
2 tsp. chopped fresh or dried rue
3 Tbsp. honey vinegar
2 pinches asafoetida powder
Toss cabbage with coriander, rue, and honey vinegar. Sprinkle with asafeotida powder and salt.

Honey vinegar
1/2 c honey
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Bring honey to a boil and skim. Add vinegar; continue boiling until it reduces a little.
From: The classical cookbook / Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. J. Paul Getty Museum, c1996.

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Newsletters: 25 Aug 2010

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 25 Aug 2010. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

Cooking, and reading about cooking
When cucumbers start showing up at the market, it always makes me think of pickles. I’ve never had much success with them, but my mother made jars and jars of them every year. This is one of the recipes she used, perfect for the home gardener with room for just one or two cucumber vines. You can make them fresh as the cucumbers become ready, and we all know how important freshness is for good pickles.

I think Gerry Wilbert was one of my mother’s friends in Davenport (Wash.) in the 1960s.

Gerry Wilbert’s dill pickles
Wash the cucumbers and pack into quart jars with a sprig of dill and 1-2 cloves of garlic at the bottom, middle, and top of each jar. Pour in 1/3 to 1/2 cup white vinegar and 2 rounded tbsp. canning (pickling) salt; top off with cold water. Boil lids 10 minutes and seal the jars; place upside-down for 24 hours. Let cure for several weeks before using. Any jars that don’t seal should be kept refrigerated until used or the pickles will be soft.

Cantonese pickled vegetables
200 g Chinese turnips, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
1 cucumber
1/2 teaspoon salt
100 g sugar
100 ml clear rice vinegar
5 thin slices ginger, smashed with the flat side of a cleaver
Cut the turnip in half lengthways, then cut lengthways into thirds and diagonally cut into 2 cm pieces. Diagonally cut the carrots into 2 cm pieces. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, remove any seeds and cut lengthways into thirds. Diagonally cut into 2 cm pieces. Place the vegetables in a non-reactive bowl, add the salt, toss lightly, and leave for 1 hour. Dry thoroughly. Combine the sugar and vinegar and stir until the sugar has dissolved Add to the vegetables with the ginger and toss lightly to coat. Leave in the fridge for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

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Newsletters: 17 Aug 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 17 Aug 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
Broccoli is considered a superfood and is best known as a cancer fighter. It is packed with calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A and C. It is said to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and help in detoxification. It is also rich in chromium, which may help prevent adult-onset diabetes.

The Romans grew and enjoyed broccoli during the first century CE, having gotten it from the Etruscans. The name comes from the Latin “bracchium,” which means “strong arm or branch.” It was an obscure vegetable in the U.S. until the 20th century, but has been gaining in popularity, especially over the last thirty years or so.

The leaves and stalks are edible, but the leaves are rather bitter. The stalks have a tough skin and should be peeled before cooking. If you don’t much like broccoli but want to eat it for its wonderful health effects, try peeling, slicing, and cooking just the stalks — some people who are put off by the texture of the flowerheads find the milder, firmer stems much more enjoyable.

In the kitchen
I know I just did zucchini recipes a couple of weeks ago, but there are so many other kinds of summer squash, I think I can find a few more recipes. I like the little round patty-pan squash, because they look like bright yellow flying saucers, but these recipes mostly assume you’ve got the sausage-shaped kind.

Grilled whole summer squash
1.5-2 lb. small summer squash (about 4), washed and patted dry
4 T olive oil
chopped fresh parsley, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat grill with all burners on high, 10-15 min. Trim the tops and bottoms of the sqash and rub them with oil. Turn one burner off and the other(s) to medium. Place squash over the burner that is off, close the lid, and cook until easily pierced with a sharp knife, 12-20 min., turning as needed. Transfer to a cutting board and slice. Toss sliced with parsley and seasonings.
From: The gas grill gourmet : great grilled food for everyday meals and fantastic feasts / A. Cort Sinnes with John Puscheck. Harvard Common Press, c1996.

Wagon Wheels with Summer Squash and Mint
16 oz wagon-wheel or bow-tie pasta, cooked
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 lb. (about 6) mixed summer squash, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 c reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
Heat butter and olive oil over high heat. Add squash slices, garlic, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup chopped mint; cook until vegetables are just tender, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add chicken broth and Parmesan cheese; bring to a boil and cook 1 minute. Toss together vegetable mixture, pasta and remaining chopped mint.
From: goodhousekeeping.com

Summer Squash and Carrot Ribbons
1.25 lb. zucchini and summer squash
1/2 lb. carrots, peeled
24 large basil leaves, slivered
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp anise seed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Trim ends of zucchini and squash. Using a vegetable peeler, shave each squash into long, wide, very thin strips, avoiding the center of the squash where the seeds are. Shave the carrots in the same fashion. Toss zucchini, squash, and carrot ribbons with basil. Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, anise seeds, salt, and pepper together and drizzle over vegetable ribbons; toss.
From: goodhousekeeping.com

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