Seed Spotlight: Kale, Mushrooms, and Purslane
n the Seed Spotlight Series we highlight different varieties of delicious local food that's currently in season, featuring information on their storage, nutritional benefits, preservation methods, and recipes.
Kale is thought to be one of the closest relatives to original prehistoric wild cabbages. It was one of the most common green vegetables in Europe until the end of the Middle Ages. Like its relatives, kale is high in fiber, lutein, folate, and zeaxanthin, and is very high in Vitamin C, A, and K, and contains some omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
In modern times, many varieties are grown by small farms, in a rainbow of colors and textures. The most common types of kale are:
- Lacinato, Tuscan, or Dinosaur- dark green, flat, wrinkled, hardy leaves
- Curly- light green, tightly curled leaves
- Redbor- tightly curled dark purple leaves with dark purple stems
- Red Russian- purple stems and light green leaves, can be wavy but is not as tightly curled as curly or redbor
- Siberian- light green leaves, wavy but rarely curly
- Sea Kale- extremely frilly light green leaves, verging on lacey; can have purple tinted leaves and stems
Kale leaves should be de-veined and washed thoroughly before using. Hardier varieties (like curly and lacinato) are great in soups, roasted, on pizza, or in skillet dinners, while more delicate varieties (like sea kale and Siberian) work well in salads. To best store kale, wrap in a dry paper towel and placed in an open ziploc or grocery bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge or stand upright in a glass with some water in the fridge like cut flowers.. Like most greens, kale freezes well in a Ziploc with about 1 in of headspace after blanching and chopping.
At Black Bottom, Kim specializes in exotic mushrooms, however we often carry more common hardy brown mushrooms from our friends at KSS in Avondale, Pa. as well. Kim grows mushrooms in sawdust and growing medium bags inoculated with spawn that she nurtures with a very specific recipe of humidity and temperature control. Most of the ones that Kim grows are native to tropical regions, so they love Maryland summers! We do not sell foraged mushrooms.
Edible mushrooms are some of our favorite veggies! They are one of the only non-animal sources of vitamin D, are high in selenium, and are rich in phytonutrients. They have been associated with lowered cholesterol and have demonstrated therapeutic uses to improving and treating neurological conditions. Cooking mushrooms, especially with onions, increases the availability of these health benefits.
The most common types of mushrooms you'll find in our blends are:
- Shitake- Nutty taste, flat brown cap, very woody stem
Portabella- wide deep brown cap with dark gills, neutral taste, meaty texture
White Button- small white round cap, neutral taste
Lion's Mane- frilly, "pom pom" textured white mushroom, slightly fishy taste, delicate texture
Oyster- can be grey, pink, or yellow, layers of delicate "ears" folding out from a central stem (also edible), velvety texture, meaty, mushroomy and funky flavor
Maitake- light grey and brown frills standing up from a central stem, meaty texture and nutty, meaty taste
Mushrooms are best stored in the fridge in a loosely closed paper bag. To clean mushrooms, wipe the caps off with a dry paper towel and trim off the root of the mushroom (usually a dark, dirty looking spot at the base of the stem). Most stems are edible, although some (like shitake) are tough and woody. If you'd like to preserve your mushrooms for later, they freeze best after cooking down into tapenade or other recipes, and dry well.
Purslane, also known as wild portulaca, is a native edible wild plant. It has been enjoyed for at least 2,000 years, from ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, to medieval era Arabs, to cultivation in Europe. It has a crunchy texture and light lemony flavor. It has been likened to watercress or spinach. It works well in juices and smoothies, as a green in wraps and sandwiches, in salads, in soups (their leaves are high in pectin, which thickens stews or soups), or tossed into sitr frys. It is high in vitamin E, alpha-linolenic acid (an essential omega-3 fatty acid), beta carotene, vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus.
Purslane keeps well wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a sealed container (Ziploc, mason jar, tupperware) in the fridge. It also keeps well in a glass with water in the fridge (like flowers). It preserves best when blended with olive oil (as if for a pesto) and then portioned into ice cube trays and frozen.