Foraging for Purslane: Weed and Feed
"I like the idea of finding food all around me," says Kyle Bailey, executive chef of Birch & Barley, presenter at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival and a self-proclaimed urban forager. "Everywhere I look I see wild edibles. I remember seeing the same forage-able on my walk to work as I saw in the forest. You can't hold nature back; it always finds a way."
Bailey, who gives his staff books on foraging for Christmas, finds a way to work them into—and on top of—the dishes he serves at his Washington, D.C., restaurant. One of his favorites is violet wood sorrel. "Violet wood sorrel has a lemony flavor and grows all over the place. We use it as a garnish for summer vegetables like cucumber, melon and squash," Bailey says. "I was able to forage some for Bluejacket, our soon-to-open brewery. It'll be used to brew a beer called Sidewalk Saison."
Bailey also forages purslane, which is great in salads and "cooks like spinach with a slightly sour, salty taste," he says. "It's a succulent green with the highest amount of omega 3 fatty acids in the leafy green family."
Purslane works well with Bailey's recipe for pullet egg with local peach, grilled cucumber, ginger and sage, below. But before you head outside to hunt some of your own, check out his tips for successful urban foraging:
Exhaust-ing Details "Any low-lying beds or areas near where a car exhaust might blow are good areas to avoid," Bailey says. "Raised beds that are tucked away from the street are good." He also recommends checking unkempt park spaces and asking your neighbors if you can weed their garden for them.
No Shittake Leave mushrooms to the experts. "It's been said that something like 4 percent of wild mushrooms are good to eat, so that's a pretty bad track record," Bailey says. "Berries can also be dangerous because a lot of them look alike. I recommend growing them in your backyard until you get comfortable with identifying the good stuff."
Be Prepared Bailey always keeps some plastic bags, a trowel and damp paper towel handy, plus his iPhone with Wild Man Steve Brill's apps for double-checking. "Every day is about education," Bailey says. "But nothing is a better teacher than going out and seeing where things are growing along the ground and in patches."
Sidestep the Pesticides "Most cities don't use pesticides to get rid of weeds in a bed, but they'll use weed whackers to remove the stuff growing out of the sidewalk," he says. "You're going to find healthy product in private areas, but it's always good to ask the owner or landscaping manager what they use." Bailey has the weed whacking schedule for D.C. and stocks up before they strike. He adds: "Forage-ables grow like weeds, because that's what they are."
Pullet Egg with Local Peach, Grilled Cucumber, Ginger, Sage, Purslane
- 1/4 cup sliced Kirby cucumber, skin on grilled
- 1/4 cup peach peeled and large diced
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoon minced sage
- 1 pullet egg, poached (small chicken egg)
- 1 tablespoon garlic breadcrumbs
- Foraged purslane to garnish
Sauté peaches with garlic, ginger and sage over high heat. Grill cucumbers 1-1/2 to 2 minutes on each side over high heat. Crack egg into simmering water until the white cooks, then remove. Roll the egg in garlic breadcrumbs. Garnish with purslane.