Not too hot for some

It’s hot! Today it is 106 F in the shade (41 C) and it’s paralyzing. We have all been drenching ourselves with the hose or in the tub in the garden. Any amount of heat is bearable to me when I’m soaking wet. (For additional tips on dealing with the heat without AC, Celi at the Kitchens Garden just posted a link to this fine vintage post.)

Some of the garden inhabitants, however, are quite unfazed by the weather. The butterfly above was flitting about in the heat of the day. I came out of the shadows only long enough to take a few shots and then immediately high-tailed it back into my hidey hole.

Another hot weather survivor is a plant known here as semizotu. It is known in Latin as portulaca oleracea, and in English as purslane. The word semiz in Turkish means “fat” (as in chubby) — its leaves and stems are succulent. (You may also be familiar with portulaca grandiflora, or moss rose, which is even juicier looking.) Perhaps this is what helps it survive the heat. It grows into a thick mat wherever it pops up, and given that it produces thousands of seeds, it pops up a lot once it finds you.

Purslane, making itself at home among cucurbits and peppers in one of the keyhole beds.

Purslane, making itself at home among cucurbits and peppers in one of the keyhole beds.

Is it a weed? Weed is, of course, a relative term. In theory, anything in your garden that you didn’t plant there could be considered one. It all comes down to tolerance. However, being useful is a good way to avoid being regarded as a weed, and in this sense purslane shines.

It is a very nutritious vegetable, and is the richest vegetable source of Omega-3 fatty acids. It is commonly seen in vegetable markets here, and is eaten both raw in salads and cooked. I dislike all slimy foods intensely, and I have noticed that there is a slight sliminess to wild purslane that does not seem to be a problem in the cultivated varieties (my mother, who is far more slime-tolerant — she likes okra, for example — does not notice this at all). Since I am pulling it as a weed in my garden, I tend to eat it cooked and thought that I would share a simple recipe for anyone who has it growing in their environs, as an resident or an uninvited guest.

KIYMALI SEMIZOTU — purslane with ground beef

1 bunch purslane (about a pound)

1 onion, chopped

1/4 pound ground beef

tomatoes — one can, or 3 to 4 fresh, chopped

1/4 cup stock (if needed)

yogurt to serve

To clean the purslane, the best strategy is to cut it off at the roots. Then, all you need to do is rinse it and chop it up, stems and all (which is an advantage to cooking it over eating it raw; using it in salads involves plucking all the leaves off the stems, which is very fiddly work).

Saute your onion in some olive oil until it turns translucent, then add the beef and cook until it loses its pink color.

Then throw in the purslane, top it with the tomatoes, and cover. After a few minutes, a smell not unlike earth will emanate from the pot. Breathe it in — this is the goodness of soil in the leaves. Have a peek and give it all a stir. This is when you will need to decide whether or not to add any more liquid. If you use canned tomatoes, probably not, but if you do need a bit more moisture, add some stock or water.

Let this all cook until it is done enough for you. For me, this is usually about 10 minutes (I like the leaves still green; they go a bit gray after 20 minutes or so). Taste them as you go.

This is so good with some plain yogurt on top!

One thing to be aware of if you are gathering this wild is that there are euphorbias that resemble purslane, and they are slightly toxic. All you need to know is that euphorbias have milky sap. If you are picking something that looks like purslane and it has milky sap, it is not purslane!

If you don’t mind picking all those leaves off, you can also make a salad with yogurt and olive oil and a bit of pomegranate syrup, and my mother recently added it to potato salad to good effect.

Hope you are all staying cool!