Wild About - Purslane

The trouble with most foraged leafy plants is that they are tastiest when young and tender. So what to do in the scorching mid-summer heat of July when greens have grown tall? Scout out purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Its leaves are actually slightly sour (lemony, like sorrel) when young, but as the plant matures, the sourness mellows and its leaves and stems remain tender. This, combined with the fact that it is plentiful and easy to collect, make it an ideal high summer forage.

Do you recognize the paddle-shaped leaves and red stems in the picture? The first place I spotted purslane when I started foraging for it was my driveway. Look for it's fleshy ruby stems and succulent leaves (like tiny flat spineless cactus padals), both of which are edible. You probably have some of it in your driveway or yard, too. You might even be "weeding" it out of your garden, in which case, it's likely more nutritious than the vegetables you're growing! The leaves of purslane have a slight crunch, so it's a joy in salads, but it also can be eaten cooked (steamed, stir-fry, stewed, you name it), and pickled.

And if you really get into eating purslane, save some of its seeds, and start your own patch in a container. Purslane plants respond very well to the traditional pinching-off method you'd use to tame any plant which gets leggy. Wild purslane creeps along the ground. But if you grow it in a pot, and harvest the tips, you can end up with a fuller plant.

The only caveat here is to make sure that when you're hunting purslane, you don't see any milky fluid released from the stem. The juices of purslane run clear. A plant called spurge looks somewhat similar, and grows in the same habitats, but is not edible. But don't let that scare you away from foraging purslane. Think of all of the unknown risks you face from eating industrially manufactured produce which has been genetically altered and sprayed with gawd-knows-what chemicals. With wild purslane, just snap a stem and look to make sure the fluids run clear. See, easy.


This post is appearing as a part of the Two For Tuesday Blog Hop! Click the link, because you will get to see the recipes from all of the participating carnivals.

Comments

  1. Awesome! I have a hard time finding purslane here...don't know why. I've been actively looking, too. Funny (not really) thing is, the one place I've seen it is in my neighbors garden...and though I've told them it was edible, they continue to "weed" it out when I'm not watching. I'll have to outright ask them if I can have it next time. They also let squash blossoms go to waste...frustrating! I just feel "bad" asking people for things, but I think it's time for me to grow some balls. LOL!

    On a separate note, I spied some cattails a couple of days ago, though I think they're on city property. I'm planning a covert mission to extract a few without being noticed...although I worry in part that they may be sprayed. But why would they take the time to do that is my "on the other hand."

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  2. Aw, girlie, wish we could scout out some cattails together. I had planned one last big mission to collect pollen yesterday, but then we were hit with serious rain on the 4th, so no go. But I want some more for pancakes! The happiest sunniest tastiest yummiest-smelling pancakes in the world!

    I saw a few cattails outside a real estate office the other day, so I went inside to ask permission to collect them, and I got THE LOOK. Of course, it's not bad enough that I'm decked out in bike gear and enough zinc sunscreen to look full-on BOZO! Sigh.

    But there's so much food out there! Good food, tasty food, nutritious food, the stuff of culinary dreams!

    Regarding the purslane, is it possible that it's just early in the season? I always just figure that we're behind everywhere else. The stuff in my driveway has been growing for for two weeks, but the purslane in the fields is only just starting to send out red stems.

    And don't even get me started on wasting squash blossoms because I'll cry. Watch me, I will!

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  3. Ha!! I know...makes me feel like crying, too... Possibly, it's just early. I'm definitely going to keep my eyes open. But honestly, I think alot of people don't realize it's edible (around here, anyway). I'm hounding the neighbors when I see it pop back through, though. And omg, LOL...I can just picture you walking into that office and the looks on their faces. Priceless!

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  4. I don't think many people here know it's edible, either. I certainly didn't until recently.

    I think it speaks to the larger disconnect that we have from our foods. People lament that children today think that eggs come from cartons, and chicken from plastic containers. But are adults much better off when they think that food is only edible if it first passes through the artificially santized grocery store? Walk through any produce aisle and look at the carrots, beets, and potatoes. Not a speck of dirt, all evidence they were pulled from the earth removed.

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  5. I got so excited when I read your post. I thougth, "I've got that all over my garden". Then I read about checking to make sure it isn't spurge. So happy to have that important information. I'm going out right now to check and see what I have. Wish me luck!

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  6. Yahoo!!! It's purselane not spurge. Thanks to your tip about the milky stem I could actually tell that. I hit the jackpot. It's the only "weed" growing in my garden right now and I've been frantically pulling it out. I'm going to harvest some tomorrow. Do you just use it as a salad green or have you found other uses for it? Mine is small because I pull it out as often as I can before it grows to big.

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  7. Bonnie - Yippee!Congratulations on the super-nutritious crop growing in your garden! I swore last week that I wouldn't try to sell people on foraging based on the nutritional properties of the food. But google it, purslane's nutritional profile is impressive.

    I like the slight crunch of purslane so well that I usually just eat it raw, either in a salad or as a fresh garnish to cooked food. But I also think it would be delicious in a sandwich. I made a stir-fry the other night, and threw in a handful. It's a pretty versatile green, and can be cooked in any way. I've even heard that if you put it in a soup, it will thicken it like okra, but I've yet to try it.

    Did you like the taste of purslane?

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  8. Here's an update. I went to chat with my neighbor this morning. She was weeding her yard. And when I looked down, wouldn't ya know it, she was plucking out an enormous mat of purslane. Since she doesn't put anything funny on her yard, I ended up coming home with over five pounds of purslane.

    Now I'm just trying to figure out how to preserve it all. I think I'm going to try making a lacto-fermented purslane pickle. I've found plenty of recipes for vinegar pickles, but I'd prefer to culture them myself.

    For dinner tonight, I'm stewing together purslane, tomatillo, roasted poblano, and pork, and it tastes really great. The sharper tastes of the purslane and tomatillo balance out the richer pork well.

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  9. Oh, that sounds delicious!! That's one of our favorite ways to eat it when we can get it...with pork and Mexican flavors (the hubs is Mexican...not sure if you knew that)!

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  10. Oooh, yummy! Do you have a link to your recipe? I'd love to know how you cook it. I was just improvising.

    Have you ever preserved purslane?

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  11. I grew up eating verdolagas. But I didn't realize this was the same thing because they are so much smaller. I think I'll be revisiting my childhood soon.

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