Cooking Like A Mexican

Verdolagas / Garden Weeds
BY: ALE BORBOLLA

Cooking Like a Mexican.jpg

Garden weeds.

Verdolagas are not really weeds though, but I’m sure foreigners will frown upon eating something that also grows from a crack in the sidewalk. You might have heard of it as Purslane, and it’s classified as a Noxious weed in the U.S. Truth is, it’s quite the superfood and has more properties than kale, but has not yet been “discovered” in the U.S or Canada. Purslane is full of Omega 3, more than any other green plant, fiber, and more beta carotene than carrots! Some scientists call it a “miracle plant.”

It’s a tiny fleshy plant with tiny yellow flowers, it’s bright green, a little shiny when young and tastes like lemony cucumbers. Mothers in Mexico cook Verdolaga, often times collecting it from around the house and neighborhood, others buy it from markets. Now hipster chefs and food wannabe connoisseurs are starting to use it kind of like arugula or any other microgreen, in salads, tossed in omelettes, or as a side dish, but Mexicans have been eating it since the Spaniards conquered Mexico.

This is not a prehispanic ingredient, but we have made it our own much more than the Spanish since we cook with it more often, and its dirt cheap! Verdolaga grows plentiful for most of the year in central and northeastern Mexico.

Maria Felix (not the actress) is 117-years-old and lives in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. She says that she has reached this age from eating nopales and verdolagas (Nopales are cacti), and analyzing all the properties these two ingredients have, I have no doubt. They are also found for free around rural areas of the country. She says in detail and with tears in her eyes that, she ate nopales and verdolagas because she lived a very hard life and the economy was not great after Villa’s disputes, there was no corn, no beans, she could not find anything to eat. “Mariquita,” as her family calls her, is exceptionally healthy, she does not suffer from diabetes, hypertension, and her lungs work perfectly. Once in a while, she will have a sip of beer, just to give her body the joy, or as we say in Mexico, “para dares gusto”.

There is a Mexican leyenda, or story about verdolagas and women. The story says there were once two girls who were best friends since they were little. They always played together, went to school, did homework and helped each other in chores. Maria and Piedad were joined at the waist until they reached the age when they started liking boys. As good Mexican stories go, they had a little drama in their lives; they liked the same boy. Maria was the one who got asked out by the boy, and Piedad was green with envy but never lost hope. Then, the boy became a man and Maria and Piedad grown women and Maria was to marry the boy. Piedad began drifting away from her friend, but had to be there for her wedding. At the wedding, a nice man asked Piedad to dance, and they married quickly after since it’s a Mexican “curse” to be a single woman if your close friend marries and you don’t. Piedad became pregnant first, happy to have won at least one battle, and Maria could never have children. To smooth things out, Maria asked to be the baby’s godmother, thus being tied forever to her childhood friend. As the baby grew up, he was spoiled rotten by his mother and godmother so he was often throwing tantrums and whatnot, but Piedad was quickly becoming tired of her son’s behavior. One good day, the boy threw a big fit and was about to be punished by his mother, when he ran out of the house and looked for shelter in Maria’s house. Things turned even more complicated because Maria was not happy about Piedad’s ways with her son, so they started fighting. It was such a big fight they pulled each other’s hair out and the husbands had to separate them. Piedad mover away with her family and Maria never saw the little boy again. They both died on the same day for a strange reason and stood in the gates of heaven. The story says that when the creator saw them, he refused to let them in and instead sent them back to earth, as a plant. The creator turned them into a small plant that grows in humidity for all the tears they made each other shed, that grows like the hair they pulled from each other’s head, and that was often mistaken as a weed, to learn their lesson. Grandmothers say that for that reason, verdolagas have to be thoroughly cleaned because there will always be a hair found tangled up in the little branches.

Ingredients

3 lbs. pork stew meat, bone-out cubed

3 lbs. pork stew meat, bone-in cubed

1 onion, quartered

2 -3 jalapeño peppers, chopped

4 -6 tomatillos, quartered

1⁄4 cup cilantro

3 bunches of verdolagas

salt and pepper to taste

Procedure

In a pot, add water almost mid-way. When the water has come to a boil add all the pork meat, salt and black pepper to taste.

When the pork meat has cooked and changed color, lower to medium heat and let simmer.

In a saucepan fill the pot halfway, add the quartered onion, jalapenos, tomatillos, cilantro, and boil until the skin falls off of the tomatillos. When ready place everything in the blender and liquify.

Add the sauce to the pot, make any adjustments to the seasonings at this time. Let simmer for 15 minutes and then add the verdolagas (after rinsing and disinfecting them) and let simmer for another 30 minutes or until meat is tender and verdolagas are soft.

Serve with beans and tortillas, and enjoy!