I now realise I have an intimate relationship with this weed developed through years of mowing lawns. Shepherd’s Purse, which has tiny white flowers, is considered a lawn pest in the UK and numerous British gardening websites devote space to facilitating its annihilation.
Such a shame! All I needed to do to clear my lawn of this ‘pest’ was to pull it up and consume it. I have never tired it in British cooking but I’m sure with creativity it could have uses. In Britain, there is a long history of Shepherd’s Purse as an herbal remedy and in China it is used in both soup and as a wonton filling.
I wrote a brief post on Shepherd’s Purse (냉이) in 2010, in Bathhouse Ballads and made it clear I wasn’t sure how much I liked it. However, I actually bought several bundles and froze them and there was ample to last the entire year. Like many seasonal oddities, especially ones used by grandmothers, as is naengi, it’s a case of ‘here today – gone tomorrow.’ Only a few weeks after noticing it, it will have disappeared and it is most prolific in spring and autumn. Naengi really livens-up a bowl of bean curd soup (됀장찌게) and I was quite excited to buy it fresh yesterday. I can’t be bothered trimming off the roots and have one of those mesh balls in which I put whole plants and simply immerse the ball in the soup. Quite a few of my students love naengi and apart from telling you how their grandmothers use it, are often excited recounting its flavour.
OUTSIDE KOREA: – look in your garden!
(originally published in Bathhouse Ballads)