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MORAN: Edible summer weeds

June 21, 2017 - 1:45 PM

OPINION


It is an interesting time in the world of weeds and herbs here in the Southern Interior. At this point in the season, there are no new plants left to sprout in the year of 2017. Every herbaceous plant that will make an annual appearance in our region has arrived.

Many herbs have already carried out their reproductive cycle and are now spending the rest of the year in a semi-dormant state with no new leaf growth until next spring. The official flower of Kelowna is a great example. This is the arrowleaf balsamroot, named after the shape of its leaves and the aroma of its root. These are usually referred to as wild sunflowers, although they are not related to the garden sunflowers.

The most recent edible weeds to sprout in our midst are purslane and amaranth. These two are very hardy and will thrive in our hot summer weather with little to no irrigation.

Amaranth.
Amaranth.

Amaranth has dry and thick green leaves with a mild flavour that make a great alternative to spinach or kale. They cook beautifully in a soup and even after a long cooking period will still maintain their shape and flavour without turning to mush. This is the same plant that produces the well known ancient grain of amaranth seeds. If you encounter a large amount of old amaranth in your garden or neighbouring field, the spiky heads can be shaken and the seeds collected for a nice treat to cook with. Try amaranth seed toffee!

Purslane is very versatile, with edible leaves, stems, and seeds. The young shoots which are appearing right now will be tender right up to the root. Later in the season, the base of the branching arms of this tentacle-ish herb will be a bit tough, but the large and thick stems can be cooked or pickled. Purslane is higher in omega - 3 fatty acids than any other edible plant, and make the perfect supplement to a vegetarian diet to replace valuable nutrients from seafood. Preserving these stems through picklng is the best way to enjoy a local source of omega - 3s all year. I am sure there are hundreds of local gardeners yanking this delicious weed out of their garden as I am writing this column.

Purslane
Purslane

My favourite purslane recipe is 'purslane de gallo', a spin on the fresh salsa pico de gallo. The classic recipe is four ingredients, plus salt. Diced tomato, onion, cilantro, and lime juice. Salt heavily and let rest until the salt draws out the juices of your tomatoes to make it extra saucy and blend the flavours, as well as partially cooking your ingredients. Add a healthy portion of chopped purslane to make it a unique and local specialty.

Please keep in mind these pictures are not intended for identification and to safely work consume wild edibles you have to hit the books (or the plant identification page on Facebook).

— Scott Moran is a local forager discovering his own path to food freedom

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