Thursday, March 24, 2016

"Wandering Jew" (Tradescantia fluminensis) Pizza

This was an experiment to  use the leaves of the very common New Zealand weed Tradescantia
fluminensis in place of cheese for a pizza, I found it delicious and refreshing. Cheese is obviously supremely delicious but not usually refreshing at all in my experience.

I have experimented with many fruit and vegetables in place of cheese, so far I've found Kale to be best, first boiled then chopped and fried then put on the pizza to be roasted with other ingredients.

I've found trying to find a plant based food or combination of foods that competes with cheese on it's own terms to be futile, doing something quite different but good in it's own unique way to be the only hope, so far that's Kale.

Trying to compete with animal products on their own terms, or to imitate them, seems to be a common mistake with vegetarian and vegan cooking.

I decided to try the "worthless" weed Tradescantia fluminensis, for my pizza when I'd run out of Kale. I removed the young and old leaves from the stems (which I had to kill in a blender before adding to my worm farm) and prepared it in the same way as Kale; boiled (to soften it), chopped, fried (for intense flavor)  then roasted with the rest of the pizza. I fried them in a generous amount of Avocado oil which I'm sure helped. The only problem was there were three small tough bits still in my mouth when I'd finished which had not been swallowed, I had to remove them and discard them. It's possible I didn't notice dead bits of leaf or stem when preparing, or more likely I fried the finely chopped leaves for too long, more or less burning a few bits.

It's worth noting there appears to be only one authority who states this plant is edible, Francios Couplan Ph.D (The Encylopedia of Edible Plants of North America 1998), he recommends the young leaves cooked. It's possible old leaves are avoided because of overly tough bits like those mentioned above, but I've been eating the older leaves fairly regularly for 10 years (usually in other ways than fried, including raw) and never been aware of this before.

The only real problem with using Wandering Jew regularly as food is that it does not appear to have been analysed for nutrient content, so is best used just as a novelty or last resort until this happens (if it ever happens), especially given its apparent rare use as food. Better to stick with something super-nutritious & widely used like Kale, most of the time.

It is encouraging, however, that the similar Commelina nudiflora from the same family has been analysed and suggested as a cheap source of Vitamins C, B3 and B2 as well as other macro and micro nutrients (1).

1. Nutritive and Anti-Nutritive Properties of Boerhavia diffusa and Commelina nudiflora Leaves. C.O. Ujowundu , C.U. Igwe , V.H.A. Enemor , L.A. Nwaogu and O.E. Okafor.

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