Shepherd's Purse (냉이）
With the approach of spring many seasonal ‘vegetables’ are appearing on the streets and one of the most common is Shepherd’s Purse. This costs about 2000W (£1 sterling) for a large bunch and can be bought from the elderly women who usually sit on the pavements selling various ‘vegetables.’ I haven’t yet seen it in my local E-Mart. Two of my Korean friends didn’t even know the name for this ‘vegetable’ and neither did they know how to use it. My best Korean friend is a total muppet when it comes to cooking so a much younger colleague gave me instructions. Shepherd’s Purse grows in the UK where for most people it would probably be classified as a weed and indeed when I initially tried it in a soup it tasted as one might imagine boiled grass to taste. Subsequent experiences revealed a subtle taste which some students describe as ‘medicine.’ However, not giving up easily, I have cooked this several times and find it pleasant.
Shepherd’s Purse doesn’t seem to keep long, even in the fridge and it will need washing and the small roots trimmed off. If you buy a bagful this job is tedious! Subsequent purchases, I prepared, chopped and then put in a plastic zip bag in the freezer. It makes a subtle addition to bean paste soup (된장찌개）and is quite often used with oyster soup. I have also used it in fish soup (해물탕). Shepherd’s Purse won’t win any taste awards and although I haven’t quite decided the extent to which I like it, it does provide a distinct but gentle background flavour.
(Three weeks later) Shepherd’s Purse has grown on me. In bean soup it definitely provides a pleasant flavour. I decided to buy some more later in the week. It keeps well stored in the freezer.
© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.