Purslane

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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Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

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
water
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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Persimmons

native to: the most popular varieties are native to China, although other areas also have native varieties
in season here: Novemberish

The persimmons you find in stores are most likely to be one of the Japanese varieties. There is a persimmon native to the U.S. but it’s mostly grown as an ornamental. The most common varieties are Fuyu, which is shaped like a flat tomato and is the best choice for peeling and eating raw, and Hachiya, which is more suited to baking and has a pointier shape. Other general types include the Indian Persimmon, Black Persimmon, and Date-Plum Tree. Technically, persimmons are berries. They’re all in the Diospyros genus, members of the Ebenaceae family and related to ebony. Persimmon wood is in fact sometimes used to make things like longbows, wooden flutes, and eating utensils, but it can be brittle and difficult to work with.

Persimmons are rather rare, commercially speaking, mostly because they’re best when very ripe. Some varieties are sweeter and reach edibility before becoming completely squishy, others are more astringent and should be cooked or eaten with a spoon.

Persimmons are rich in vitamins A, B6, C, and E, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and fiber. They also provide lots of phytonutrients, flavonoids, and antioxidants. They’re good for the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes, protect against mouth, lung, and breast cancers, boost the immune system, and generally help regulate the whole body. They even fight lipid uptake, which helps with weight loss.

Persimmons can lower blood pressure, which is great news if yours is high, but can be dangerous for those with low blood pressure. They’re also pretty high in fructose, which is turning out to be not as healthy as we’ve been told once you get into the higher dosages. Very high consumption of persimmons can lead to the formation of woody lumps in the stomach called bezoars, but we’re not likely to eat that many around here.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw Japanese persimmons
label-style nutrition information for raw native persimmons
Organic Facts
Web MD

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Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Vitellian Beans

1 lb. fresh fava beans, shelled and peeled (if desired)
3/4-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
2 tsp. fresh lovage or celery leaf, chopped
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 cooked egg yolks
3 Tbsp. honey (plus more if desired)
2 Tbsp. fish sauce (your preferred garum substitute, such as colatura di Alici, nuoc mam, or nam pla)
5 fl. oz. white wine
3 fl. oz. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Cook beans in boiling salted water until tender, 4-6 minutes; drain and puree. Pound ginger, lovage, and pepper in a mortar; add egg yolks and continue until it forms a smooth paste. Add honey and fish sauce; stir until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan, rinsing the mortar into pan with the wine and vinegar. Add oil and simmer gently a few minutes. Combine with beans and reheat if needed. If desired, sweeten with more honey.

Recipe originally from De Re Coquinaria” (compiled in the 4th or 5th century C.E. and commonly referred to by the supposed author, Apicius). This version adapted from The Classical Cookbook / Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996. ISBN: 0892363940

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Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Celeriac

native to: Europe
in season here: winter

Celeriac, celery root, knob celery, soup celery, or turnip-rooted celery is a member of the Apiaceae or carrot family and is closely related to the more familiar leaf celery. While the stalks and leaves can be eaten — they’re rather tough and strong-flavored — it’s the root we’re after here. It can keep for months in the fridge as long as you don’t let it dry out, but freezing is not recommended. To use, pare it down to the smooth white flesh and pretend it’s a celery-flavored potato. It’s most commonly mashed with potatoes, but I like it scalloped (recipe will post 4 Nov.).

Celeriac is very low in calories and carbohydrates, and high in anti-oxidants and cancer-fighting compounds. It’s good against osteoporosis because of the vitamin K it provides, and studies suggest it limits neuronal damage in Alzheimer’s. It has some valuable B-complex vitamins and provides lots of minerals: phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, copper, and manganese.

It’s high in water-soluble fiber, making it a good choice if you have cholesterol concerns. It’s also good for the heart and nerves, and can be helpful against urinary problems. Like celery, however, it should only be eaten in moderation by pregnant women and sparingly by people on diuretics or anti-coagulants. If you’re allergic to birch or mugwort pollens, (or celery, of course) you may also react to celeriac.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw celeriac
label-style nutrition information for cooked celeriac
Natural Health Solutions has nutrition information and lots of serving suggestions

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Tandoori turkey

12-14 lb. whole turkey, rinsed and patted dry
1/4 cup kosher salt
5 black cardamom pods
5 green cardamom pods
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic
turkey roasting bag

Marinade:
4 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup chopped peeled ginger
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup paprika
2 Tbsp. tandoori masala (see below for recipe)
2 Tbsp. garam masala (see below for recipe)
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Rub turkey inside and out with salt and place in roasting bag. Stuff turkey with cardamom and cumin, then with onion, celery, and garlic.

Purée marinade ingredients in a blender and pour into roasting bag, making sure turkey is coated. Tie bag and place breast side down in roasting pan. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to cook, let turkey stand in bag at room temperature for 1 hour, then turn breast side up. Poke steam holes in bag if required. Roast turkey for 30 minutes at 400F, then reduce heat to 350F and continue to roast about another 1 1/2 hours, until meat thermometer registers 160F. Cut open bag and pull away from turkey. Continue to roast another 15-30 minutes more, until breast is deeply browned but not burned and thermometer registers 165°F. Transfer to carving board and let rest at least 20 minutes.

Strain juices into a large saucepan and skim off fat. Simmer over medium heat about 20 minutes, until sauce is reduced to 3 1/2 cups.

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Tandoori masala:
2 1/2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
2 Tbsp. cumin seeds
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried fenugreek
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, 3-4 inches, broken into pieces
1/4 tsp. ajwain seeds

Toast spices over medium heat until fragrant, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Grind mixture in a spice mill or with mortar and pestle, working in batches. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 month.

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Garam masala:
24 bay leaves, crumbled
3 Tbsp. black cardamom pods
2 1/2 Tbsp. cumin seeds
2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
1 1/2 Tbsp. green cardamom pods
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. ajwain seeds
2 tsp. whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, 3-4 inches, broken into pieces

Toast spices over medium heat until fragrant, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Grind mixture in a spice mill or with mortar and pestle, working in batches. Sift through medium-mesh strainer and store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 month.

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Adapted from a recipe by Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez from Bon Appétit, November 2011, as reprinted by epicurious.com

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Cannellini bean dip with garlic scapes

15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped garlic scapes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

for serving:
whole grain crackers or sliced baguette
grape tomato halves

Pulse beans in food processor 3-4 times. Add scapes and olive oil and process for about 30 seconds. Add lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper and process until the dip is thick and creamy, adding more oil if needed.

From: Andrea’s Recipes

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.