Bits & Bobs

8 Jul

I’ve got two horticultural mysteries that need solving. I’m flummoxed. So I turn them over to you guys!

Black Fred

Yesterday was the first day of the Sunset Park greenmarket on 4th Avenue at 59th Street.

This is a greenmarket aimed directly at the community. No shishi cheeses or froufrou produce here. Just simple, beautiful, freshly picked greens, veggies, fruits and herbs that can be bought with cash or food stamps. We talked to the market manager, a cool woman who thankfully can say cebolla in a way that gets across to the farmer that I’m looking for onions.

Mystery Green

I picked up a bunch of long, thin green leaves and inhaled. The smell was intoxicating, somewhere between coriander and curry leaves. I asked the farmer what it was and he said something that I didn’t understand. He made a frustrated gesture and said, “Salads, good for salads.” I was sold.

But now I want to know what it is. Can anyone identify my mystery green?

Mystery Green

In other news, a vine from my neighbors backyard is growing up the fire escape and trying to tendril itself around my tomatoes. It looks familiar and yet slightly dangerous. I keep trying to train it away from my ‘maters, which don’t seem to be in any hurry to flower or produce fruit.

Mystery Vine

Can anyone identify my mystery vine?

Mystery Vine

In other garden news, that pretty black kitty up there is one of the members of the Four Freds. That’s Black Fred. There’s also Original Fred, Fuzzy Fred and Tuxedo Fred (nee Black Fred). I love having them around, it’s like having my own personal anti-squirrel infantry.

Back with real posts and real cooking soon enough, but for now, I send my virtual thanks to anyone that can help me out!


21 Responses to “Bits & Bobs”

  1. Lydia July 8, 2007 at 12:22 pm #

    The greens look like culantro.

  2. Christina July 8, 2007 at 1:00 pm #

    The vine is bittersweet nightshade (something in the solanum genus). It is a pretty vine, but can take over your plants, so continue pulling it off plants that it tangles with. I’ve never seen the herb/vegetable from your greenmarket foray before, but I’m interested in what you do with it.

    Very cute kitty.

  3. Toni July 8, 2007 at 5:15 pm #

    The greens look like something I’ve seen in the Vietnamese markets around here. They always tell me “You put it in rice, you put it in soup.” I finally figured out that’s because rice and soup constitute a large part of their diet!

    As for the vine, yes, it’s a nightshade. I remember we had this growing wild in New Mexico, and it was always something we pulled out when we found it in the garden, and left alone elsewhere. (The flowers are pretty!)

  4. deb July 8, 2007 at 7:46 pm #

    Wow, I think I know this first one, though it’s surely a fluke or I’m outright wrong. It’s dandelion greens, but a less-common version of them. My friend Darren put them in a salad a few weeks ago and said what they were, and I was surprised they didn’t look arugula-like, the way the greens usually look to me. Very tasty, though a little tougher than I like in salad. No help on the mystery vine, but it sure is pretty.

  5. ann July 8, 2007 at 9:42 pm #

    You guys RULE!

    Christina — I knew you were going to know what the vine was! Thanks so much for you knowledge. I called my mom and asked her about it and she said I should lop it off… But… The bees really, REALLY like it, and I’m hoping that if things ever decide to bloom on my plants that the bees will come and help make some veggies.

    Lydia — You are such a font of knowledge. Thank you so much.

    Toni — I think you’re right on too. I looked up culantro and, lo and behold, it’s popular in South American, Carribean cuisines, and yes, Vietnamese! Amazing.

    Deb — It is such a pretty vine and the bees love it so much even though it’s trying to strangle my ‘maters, I think I’ll let it live. Awesome pierogis by the way!

  6. Susan in Italy July 9, 2007 at 3:44 am #

    I had no idea about the first one until reading Lydia’s comment. Now I think it’s culantro as well. I had no name for the vine either but it’s something I remember playing around as a kid in suburban Chicago. If I’m not wrong, it produces red berries that look more poisonous than tasty. (At least that was my take on it as a kid.)

  7. Mary July 9, 2007 at 6:14 am #

    I second/third the culantro and night shade verdicts.

  8. Jessica July 9, 2007 at 9:19 am #

    Those are not Culantro, guys. I grow Culantro- it doesn’t look like that. The leaves are waxier, sharper, and don’t have much of a curry scent- more of a completely overwhelming Cilantro/Corriander smell.
    I see those particular greens in our asian market pretty regularly. I’m going to ask what they are.

  9. Lea July 9, 2007 at 10:17 am #

    I’m gonna have to agree with Jessica on this. It doesnt look like culantro to me either, and Ive used alot of fresh culantro. Culantro tends to grow on individual pale green, white stems…. the one in that picture has stalks.. almost like broccoli.

  10. HC July 9, 2007 at 2:58 pm #

    The greens are what the Chinese refer to as “Empty-hearted vegetable” or “Water Spinach”. See here:

    You can stir-fry them as you would with most Asian vegetables – chop, add oil and garlic, high-heat, stir-fry.

  11. Chris Bellamy July 9, 2007 at 3:25 pm #

    The first one looks like epazote to me – used in Mexican dishes, black beans, for one.

  12. Wandering Chopsticks July 9, 2007 at 7:11 pm #

    Definitely not water spinach as water spinach’s edges are smooth, not jagged. And no coriander or curry smell to water spinach either.

    And definitely not culantro or sawtooth herb as those are single leaves.

    As for the nightshade, it’s a member of the tomato family so that’s why it looks similar. But it’s poisonous so I’d yank it all out so it doesn’t taint any of your edibles.

    I’m curious to see what that mystery leaf turns out to be!

  13. TempusFugitive July 10, 2007 at 12:20 am #

    If I was a betting man, I would say dandelion greens, having just made some Gumbo Z’herbes. Of course could be as wrong as the rest.

  14. ann July 10, 2007 at 6:40 am #

    Susan — “poison looking berries” sounds a little creepy! I’ll have to keep my eyes on them.

    Mary — Thanks!!

    Jessica — Hmmm… no overwhelming coriander smell here…

    Lea — I knew including the picture of the stalks was a good idea

    HC — whether or not it’s water spinach, what a name “empty-hearted vegetable.” So poetic!

    Chris — epazote. That’s an interesting idea, but I don’t think it’s stalky enough.

    Wandering Chopsticks — I wish I could pull it out! But it’s roots are 2 floors away and in my neighbors backyard and they think it’s pretty, so they’re not going to pull it up. I guess I’ll just have to keep hacking at it.

    TempusFugitive — It’s a good thing you didn’t put any money on that! Definitely not dandelion greens unfortunately.

  15. sciencegeek July 10, 2007 at 11:34 am #

    I grew up calling it Deadly Nightshade. It is in the potato/tomato family and pretty much all of it is toxic. It will have little red berries later in the season.

    I love mystery greens.

  16. Julie July 10, 2007 at 1:49 pm #

    I also vote epazote (check this picture: ). I have it growing in my garden plot and I’d say it’s the same leaf. However, I don’t think epazote is used as a salad green, although I can’t say for sure.

  17. abarclay12 July 10, 2007 at 2:37 pm #

    I don’t know about your horticultural issues, but I like your black cat just chillin out in the midst of it all.

  18. SteamyKitchen July 10, 2007 at 8:36 pm #

    kinda does look like water spinach…except for the jagged leaves. Can you take a photo of the bottom part of the stems? Is it hollow?

  19. Caro July 12, 2007 at 6:25 pm #

    Your mystery green is DEFINITELY not cilantro, culantro, cilantro ancho or anything like it.

    It’s one of those great Mexican greens/herbs that have no translation. I took notes on some for a story I did on Mexican farmers who sell at greenmarkets (, but because I didn’t take pix of the stuff described to me, I’m getting them mixed up. I say your purchase is a good candidate for epazote (if it’s anise-tasting), alacha or quintoniles. Gotta get better at identifying those by sight…

  20. ann July 13, 2007 at 7:04 am #

    Caro — Seriously! Hopefully the greenmarket shopping will go more smoothly this weekend. I need to brush up on my Spanish. Thanks for the info and the link to your story!

  21. Kristin April 9, 2008 at 2:11 pm #

    I found this post (old as it is) during a search for the startdate for the SP Farmer’s Market. I’m glad a ran across it. Maybe your passion for cooking will inspire me. Take care.

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