Back when it was much much cooler than it is now, a whole host of wild greens were available both in my garden and at the stalls of the laiki (outdoor market) here in Athens. In early March of this year I posted a recipe for Tsigarista, sautéed wild greens – something we couldn’t get enough of at the time, and then suddenly it was gone. Wild greens disappeared from the laiki and even the nettles dried up into brown brittle sticks in the garden. Now, in this hot summer sun, that tsigarista almost seems like a dream.
However, not all is lost. There is a summer version of tsigarista, made with cultivated warm weather greens – vlita (βλήτα) and glystrida (γλυστρίδα), leaf amaranth and purslane respectively in English. These are common in the laiki here in Greece, but they are not mainstream vegetables in the UK.
They are well worth seeking in Mediterranean or Eastern specialty food shops. Amaranth leaf is called bayam in Malaysia and is also a common vegetable in Indonesia, China and even in parts of Africa. Purslane, a relative of the portulaca flower grown in gardens, is a common (though old-fashioned) vegetable in parts of Europe and is popular further east in India, and possibly elsewhere as the plant has a wide natural distribution in the Old World, extending to Australasia. It now grows world-wide. You might consider growing your own, or substituting them for more common greens. Amaranth leaf is slightly bitter and purslane is a slightly sour tasting succulent. Both are packed with nutrients.
This summer version of tsigarista is fantastic on its own. However, for those of you who are meat eaters, it pairs beautifully with that other staple of the laiki – souvlaki. One stop shopping for a summer meal.
- 1 onion
- Olive oil
- 1kg vlita (leaf amaranth)
- 500g glystrida (purslane)
- 3 large tomatoes
- 1 small bunch mint
- Salt & pepper
- 1 lemon
Clean the vlita and glystrida – remove & discard the larger stems. Chop the leaves coarsely. Clean and pick leaves from the mint. Chop the mint finely. Set all the greens aside – keeping them separate.
Finely chop the onion and sauté on medium heat in the oil in a large heavy bottom pot. Add the glystrida, stir. Add the mint when the glystrida begins to soften. Lastly, add the vlita. Adjust with salt and pepper.
Skin and chop the tomatoes. When the vlita wilts (about 5 minutes) and there is no liquid in the pot, add the tomatoes. Stir, but do not let it cook too long. Juice the lemon and add. The tomatoes should not completely disintegrate, but retain some of their shape. Add the crumbled feta, mix, turn off the heat and turn out on to a serving platter.
Serve as a warm salad and optionally with grilled fish (or souvlaki).