Saturday, May 7, 2016

You mean we can eat that?

When we moved into our house in 2009, we discovered that the backyard was covered in something that Susan liked to call pope's weed, but was really called bishop's weed.  We also discovered that it's practically impossible to get rid of.  It spreads by seed, but also by underground rhizomes.  If you don't pull out every last bit, it comes back.  We spent many an hour pulling it out, so now, it's almost eradicated in the garden itself -- seven years later.   But it still lingers up on top of our neighbor's wall -- the one on our side of the fence they built a few years ago.

Last year, on a whim, we bought "Backyard Foraging--65 Familiar Plants You Didn't Know You Could Eat," by Ellen Zachos.  We discovered that much of what Susan grows as ornamental, is edible.  For example, those pretty yellow flowers that a friend gave us a few years ago are really sunchokes, which we can harvest every fall after the first frost or two.  And that infuriating bishop's weed is edible!  Use as you would spinach!  It's especially good early in the season, like now.

I pulled up a dozen handfuls, trying to get as much of the root/rhizome as I could, but being careful not to bring along too much other garden detritus (mostly leaves).  Once inside, I gave it a thorough wash in three or four changes of water, and cut off the bottom part of the stems and roots.  For the test run, I simply steamed it as I would spinach in its own water droplets.  It was a bit tougher than spinach, but not overly so.  After it collapsed inside the saucepan, I drained it and served with a little butter and salt, and then a few drops of white wine vinegar.  On its own, it was boring but not distasteful or bitter.  It definitely had potential with a little more effort

The next night, I was ready to roll it out for Susan, added to a saute of onions and oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, also with a splash of white wine vinegar and some salt.   I let it cook a little longer than the previous night's trial run to tame some of the toughness.  It was tasty for sure, but the stems were a bit tough.  I resolved that next time I would have to pick off just the leaves and toss away the stems.  When you're eating weeds from the garden, I don't feel the same imperative to use every bit--it's destined for the trash anyway.

For the third attempt, I added just the leaves to a simple tomato sauce made from diced fire-roasted Muir Glen tomatoes, some onion and garlic, and a little leftover lamb that was sitting in the freezer.   I cooked the tomatoes down until they started breaking down a bit, adding some water so that it wouldn't dry out, then added the bishop's weed leaves to cook for about 15 minutes, to remove any potential toughness.  Here's it's shown with some teff polenta.  It was still a bit tougher than spinach, but tasty nonetheless, free, and a terrific way to weed the garden. 

No "recipe" today -- just a thought that if you are overrun with bishop's weed to the extent that you're pulling out your hair when you pull the weeds -- you might just enjoy it on your plate.

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