Purslane: I’m teaching your kids to eat weeds!
Since I was introduced to this new vegetable, purslane has literally been popping up everywhere in my life! I tried this edible weed for the first time in a salad-making class hosted by The Greening of Detroit’s Garden Resource Program. I’m not one to just try whatever green thing someone finds growing out of the ground, but my classmates were still standing so I figured I’d try it too. I plucked a smooth, oval-shaped leaf off its reddish-brown stem and popped it in my mouth. Purslane has a mild, lemony flavor and a slimy texture reminiscent of okra, another recent vegetable obsession of mine. I turned my attention back to the teacher- an older black woman with neat, grey dreads. She surveyed the room over her pink-rimmed glasses and encouraged us to keep an eye out for it, as it’s a common weed that we will surely find growing in our gardens.
She was right. The next day, the resident who accompanied me to the class brought me over to our garden at Freedom House. He pointed to a plant growing close to the soil and vining outward. It was purslane! The weed had popped up in a few places in our raised beds. Purslane, though delicious, is slightly aggressive and should be removed from your garden. It competes with other plants from root space and nutrients. So we pulled it, washed it, and mixed it up with some other greens to make a salad.
Later that week, I went to a friend’s apartment after work to meet him before going to a Detroit Food Policy Council meeting and a Re-imagine Detroit 2012 conversation (http://detroit2012.org). He made us a salad of mixed greens he picked up through his CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture). Sure enough, purslane again! And these were huge! I noticed that the stems, though edible, have a more earthy flavor that can be downplayed if needed by adding a dressing. I was in disbelief with how often I was seeing this plant, now that I was able to identify it.
My disbelief continued on my drive home. I was listening to my book on tape: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver (OMG HAVE YOU READ THIS?!) We all know where this is going now- she mentioned purslane too!
That was it. I was convinced that whatever hypothetical supreme power in existence put me on this earth to spread the purslane love. I bring samples to friends who trust me enough to agree to “Here! Eat this thing I found on the ground!” A few days ago, I even had the three little girls I babysit for follow me around their yard, hunch-backed and searching the ground for the stuff. Though only one of the girls liked the taste-I had to wrestle the bag out of her strong, 6-year-old grip- all three enjoyed the scavenger hunt!
Now it’s your turn, five people that read this blog! Go find it, be sure of what it is before you eat it, and enjoy its yummy flavor and nutritional benefits! Purslane, like flaxseed, is a good source of omega-3s, which are anti-inflammatory and good for heart-health. It also provides minerals like zinc, phosphorus, and manganese; as well as vitamins E, C, riboflavin, and beta carotene, (healthguidance.org). Try it raw in salads, or cooked like spinach in omelets, soups, etc.