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.

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