My friend Judith who now lives in western mexico but who used to live in Xico wrote the following regarding gasparitos ( see my previous post):
"The GASPARITO you showed looks a lot like what I knew in Xico as EQUIMITE, a tree flower. We had [an equimite tree] in our yard in our first house there. I saw it sold on the street in Xico in season. My taste experience of it was of a very delicate flavor but one not perceptible, I imagine, if you boil.. it. Try a gentle saute and by all means don't take the center stalk out. It is not bitter."
At this time of year, when many deciduous trees here are bare, and the landscape is cloaked in dryer, more wintry colors, the gasparitos, which indeed are the same flower Judith remembers, are brilliant against gray branches. You can find pictures of them on the web. I looked up equimite, which is one of the tree's names as well as a name for the the flower, and found two other names for the tree as well: zompantle and colorin. If you read Spanish, this site has lots of useful information. It is apparently a plant of Mexican origin. Don't eat the seeds! They are toxic.
Below is a picture of purslane, or, as it's called here and elsewhere in Latin America, verdolaga or berdolaga (b's and v's are often indistinguishable in sound so the letters often get transposed in everyday writing.)
When we first moved into our house almost five years ago, verdolaga was growing in one of the flower beds. Guillermo, our gardener asked whether he should pull it. At least that's what I think he asked. Back in those olden days, I didn't understand much of what Guillermo or other Spanish speakers said. I gathered that the previous owners had told him to pull it because it was a weed. I went along with that.
Much to my surprise, a bit later our friend and vegetable lady came around SELLING the stuff. "But it's a WEED," I said. She was truly offended. "It certainly isn't," she said. "It's very good for you and very tasty and you can eat it all kinds of ways." So I bought a bunch, and as with the gasparitos, that bunch and numerous others slowly died in my refrigerator.
Finally, at this late date, we, or at least I -- Jim has a very strong, possibly genetically-determined aversion to greens I think and only eats them because he acknowledges the importance of their nutrients -- have been eating them. They have a tangy, sourish flavor which is quite pleasing. They can be eaten raw or cooked by themselves or stirred into any number of dishes.
When I first decided to give verlaga a try, I asked Doña Vicky across the street what to do with it. Once again she said, "Boil it before you eat it." I can hear Judith say, "No, no, no...." And in fact you don't have to. BUT I think the advice is good for a lot of people around here, at least to start with. Since it is definitely not confined to sterile (hah hah) garden spaces and easily available along roads and so forth, you don't know what animals have made use of it for one thing or another. Furthermore, the water supply itself is a bit unreliable as far as cleanliness goes. So BOILING makes sense especially if you can't treat the water you're washing the stuff in.
So verlaga is another one of those extremely nourishing plants that exists all around us and is FREE. Weed? I don't think so.
As purslane, verlaga now has champions in the US. Here is a link to a page with information on it. As you can see, it is full of nutrients and is the numero uno (apparently) source of omega 3 fatty acid in plants.
Speaking of nutrients, there is a book called The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas Campbell (father and son) based on, guess what, a project called The China Study in which Cornell University and Oxford University participated. They studied rural Chinese diets and came up with the conclusion that plant-based diets were better for health than meat- and dairy-based diets. What's really interesting, is that the authors say that nutrition science has been merrily galloping down the wrong path by studying individual nutrients instead of the effects of whole FOODS (not the store) on human health. Thus, we read that omega 3 fatty acid is good and race to the store to buy whatever has added it. Or we buy capsules. And junk food flourishes with its labels of vitamin-enriched, fiber-enriched, etc. And people aren't getting healthier. Meanwhile, free food that grows in our neighborhood is abandoned by the better-off and plastic wrappers from all manner of junk food dance along the streets (well, not in the colonia. It's kept pretty clean. But along the roads outside it.)
Now just for fun, here is a plant I picked while it was in the process of making what will be tiny purplish to lavender colored lantern-shaped blossoms:
The leaves are also quite charming, being around three or so inches long and rounded with delicately scalloped edges and light veins. Unfortunately they are the first part to whither upon picking. But here is a picture of one anyway:
And finally, our neighbor, Ingrid, who lives right across the street made hundreds of chains of beautiful, vivid flowers out of foam and glitter this past December. They hung in dazzling array along two of her walls. People bought them to decorate their altars for the Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe. I bought two of them, too. After Christmas, I couldn't bear to put them away so I draped them on a candelabra. Here is a picture which doesn't really do them justice: