Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Praise of Weeds

I know you've heard that you can eat dandelions.  You might know about chicory or wild carrots.  But I bet you didn't know about this little guy.

This here is purslane.  It is a lovely little baby of a plant.  It's also widely regarded as a weed.  Which is a shame since, according to the magical high and mighty source of all wisdom on the internet: Wikipedia, it's got the most Omega 3's of any vegetable. It's high in vitamins A and C and contains magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron.  It's Latin name is Portulaca oleracea.  There are around 40 varieties.  And I happened to find two at my local farmer's market last week!

The one on the left here (the smaller one) is the one I consider more weedy.  I think the larger one was probably cultivated.  These two seem to have a more upright habit.  At my parent's house in NC, they've got this beauty growing as a weed in their vegetable garden, but it grows along the ground in a supine fashion.

 Here is a close-up of the difference in size between leaf whorls.  It's hard to believe they're the same type of plant!  Purslane is a succulent so the leaves are pretty... uh... juicy.  "Mucilaginous," is another word to describe it, but only slightly.  The flavor is very nice.  Apparently, depending on the time of day you harvest it, it can have a different flavor.  Earlier in the day, the leaves are more lemony.  These small plants had quite a bite compared to the larger ones which were more lettucy.  I'm not sure if it was because of when they were harvested or just a difference in the variety.  I actually tried to grow purslane from seed this year and they didn't even sprout.  Some green thumb I have.  I can't even grow weeds!
I made lasagna with mine using the purslane as a layer and I have another recipe in the box that I'll share next week.  You can basically use this any way you'd use spinach.  I even put some in my smoothie this morning!  

Keep an eye out for it at your farmer's market, but don't eat anything out of your garden if you don't know for sure what it is.  For more information about identifying purslane, check out "Wildman" Steve Brill's website.

1 comment:

  1. I too am a HUGE fan of weeds :) I too have done a little most of something which looks quite close to purslane. It's one more local wild plant from my hometown. I did a simple stir fry with onions and tomatoes!


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