Cooking with Summer Purslane – an Uncommon “Common” Weed

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When I was growing up on my grandparents’ farm, just outside a small rural community in the Appalachian Mountains, two ways that our family saved money on our grocery bill was to grow part of our own food in our large garden, and to forage plants from “the wild.”

For most folks today, many of these plants are regarded as common weeds and are considered to be “eyesores,” that spoil their otherwise verdant lawns. Several of these “common” weeds are actually nutritious and delicious “treats” for those in the know.

Getting to Know Little Hogweed – In Pursuit of Purslane

One of my favorite weeds is purslane, and it’s just now coming into season in my area. It has a tangy taste and a crisp texture, with a flavor that many describe as a blend of lemon and pepper. In our family, we used it in the place of spinach in our salads and stews, or in the place of lettuce on sandwiches.

The official, scientific name of this summer annual is Portulaca oleracea. It grows in the wild all over the world, and is known by many names including: little hogweed, duckweed, pigweed, red root and pursley.

Nutritional Information for Purslane

In addition to adding a kick of delectable goodness to a variety of dishes, summer purslane is a nutritional powerhouse, containing antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It provides more Omega-3 Fatty Acids than any other leafy green that you can eat and has vitamins A, C, E and B. Purslane is also a rich source of iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. The health benefits of this plant have been known since antiquity, and it is still used extensively in Indian and Chinese Medicine.

You can eat nearly every part of purslane, including the leaves, stems, and flowers. In some cultures, the seeds are gathered and dried and then ground into flour for bread cakes.

Purslane does contain oxalate, the amount of which is reduced by nearly a third if you cook it rather than eat it raw. If you suffer from kidney stones you will want to enjoy it in moderation, if at all.

A Word of Caution About Purslane and Gathering Plants in the Wild

Care should be taken when gathering any wild plant or herb, to make certain that you are plucking the right plant as some weeds and herbs can be poisonous. Purslane is usually easy to identify and you can often find it growing in your lawn.

Just be careful not to gather purslane in fields that have been sprayed with pesticides or that grow close to the road where they might be exposed to fumes from vehicles.

It’s also a good idea to gather your purslane late in the afternoon or evening, just before you will cook it, as the plant is actually a bit more bitter when gathered in the morning.

3 Recipes with Purslane

As mentioned before, purslane can be enjoyed raw, so it makes a great addition to salads. You can also steam it, fry it, or saute it in a bit of butter or olive oil. It goes best when used in place of spinach or even lettuce, in many recipes. The following are 3 of my favorite recipes that use purslane as an ingredient.

Recipe #1: Purslane Omelets

Ingredients:

6 eggs, beaten

1-2 cups chopped fresh purslane, leaves, stems, tips.

1/2 cup diced onion

1 small diced tomato

1 finely minced garlic clove

3 slices of bacon, fried and chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil, butter, or your favorite cooking oil

1/2 to 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

Beat the eggs, add the next 5 ingredients to the batter and stir well. Grease skillet. Fry about 1/3 of the batter at a time in a hot skillet over medium heat. Flip each omelet once. Remove from heat and transfer to serving plate when middle of omelet is done, about 5 to 7 minutes. Top with shredded cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Serves 3.

Recipe #2: Purslane Pickles

Ingredients:

1 Clean Quart size jar with tight fitting lid

4 cups chopped purslane leaves, stems and tips

32 oz of apple cider vinegar and 1 cup sugar; or leftover pickle juice

Pickling Spices: 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves, 8 to 10 whole peppercorns

Steps:

Wash, rinse and chop purslane. Drain well. Place into Quart sized jar.

Bring vinegar and sugar to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 to 7 minutes, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add garlic and peppercorns. Allow to cool. Pour this liquid mixture over the purslane. Cover with lid and place in your refrigerator for two weeks before you use it. Serve pickles on the side of dishes such as eggs, soup beans, and more.

Recipe #3: Purslane with Rice Stir Fry

Ingredients:

3 to 4 cups fresh purslane, leaves, tips, and stems, rinsed and chopped

1 diced yellow onion

1 large diced tomato

1/2 cup rice, prepared and drained

1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped cashews or walnuts *optional – leave them out if you don’t like them or are allergic to them

1 clove of garlic finely minced

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil, butter, or your favorite cooking oil

Steps:

Heat oil in skillet or wok, add purslane, onion and tomato, garlic, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cook on medium heat until purslane stems soften, about 7 minutes. Add the rice and nuts, and return to heat, and cook until warm through and excess water from the dish is absorbed by the rice, this may take several minutes. Serve hot, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.

 

 

 

 

 

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