Purslane Pleasures

Image courtesy of ZooFari via Wikimedia Commons
Possibly the most desirable and common of all edible weeds, purslane grows abundantly where the soil has been disturbed, as in a garden, and where water is sufficient, also in a garden.

You may have tried to get rid of it, thinking it was an intrusive weed, as I did for many years. When I discovered that it's not only edible, but it's delicious, there wasn't enough of it growing!

Over the years, I have learned to use it in many ways. It's a powerhouse of nutrition and one of the very few vegetable sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. it tastes different when it's harvested at different times of the day and it keeps well in the refrigerator. It continues to set seed even after it's picked, which is good, because the seed is good, too. What's not to like about it?

As a weed, it's persistent to the utmost. If you've tried to get rid of it, you know this. It regrows from the root as well as seed and it's hard to pull all of the root out because the stem breaks cleanly. Purslane has this survival thing down to an art and a science!

Which means, for the backyard forager, that you probably will never run out.

Let me explain a few statements I made. Purslane has a tangy, fresh flavor when it's picked early in the morning. As the day wears on, the taste becomes less tangy, so with a little practice, you can choose just the flavor you want.

The leaves, stems, flowers and seeds are all edible and good food. The fleshy stems make excellent pickles along with the leaves. If the plant is flowering, just pickle the whole thing. You can also dip purslane stems, leaves and flowers in beaten egg, cornmeal and flour, then fry like okra. 

The seeds are great in hot cereal and they're not hard to gather, although they are a tiny grain. When purslane begins to flower, put a piece of cloth under them and when the seed begins to ripen, it will fall onto the cloth. Shake the plants now and then to get the best harvest, separate the seeds from the chaff and there you go. Mill it into flour to add to wheat flour for breads.

Purslane provides a green vegetable steamed or boiled like any other green. Don't overcook and don't add anything but a little salt until you taste them, then you can decide. They go great with fried or scrambled eggs.

What else? Don't try to freeze or dehydrate them, but they do survive the canning process well. As I mentioned, pickled is very good, but you can process them like other greens, too.


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