Photo by Jason Hollinger
Article by Jeanne Lesinski

Step out your back door and you might find this tasty green growing in a crack in the sidewalk. To the uninitiated Purslane looks and acts like a weed, often sprawling rambunctiously where the soil has been disturbed. Yet it has long been used in Asian, Indian, and Mexican cuisine. Its mild watercress-like flavor, teardrop-shaped leaves and mauve stems, and high nutrient content suggest that Purslane should also come into its own in American cuisine—perhaps even in your kitchen.

The stems, leaves, and buds of this plant from the Portulaca family (think ornamental Moss Rose) are edible. They can be sautéed in a stir fry, steamed, or puréed in a gazpacho. They are a source of vitamin C, the B-complex vitamins riboflavin, niacin and pyridoxine, and such minerals as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese. More surprisingly, they are a rare vegetative source of omega-3 fatty acid, so they can supplement or replace fish oil in vegetarian or vegan diets.

In some areas, you can buy Purslane at farmers markets, or you might need to ask at a local farm, or simply note where it grows in your neighborhood. Find out if those neighbors would like you to do some harvesting—oops, I mean weeding—for them. Purslane pulls readily from the ground. Use scissors to snip off the roots to keep the greens as clean as possible.

Rinse them well and take them for a quick once-around in the salad spinner or gently pat them dry with a towel. Avoid bruising the tender leaves. Refrigerate until needed as they wilt quickly; yet if limp, they do respond well to an ice water soak.

Snip with scissors and add to your favorite salad, or try the one below:

Red romaine lettuce leaves
Snipped Purslane stems and leaves
Dried cranberries 
Chopped pecans

Drizzle with a raspberry vinigrette. Enjoy the tastes, textures, and mauve color palette of this sunset salad!

[If you have a recipe you'd like to share, email me at Recipes.]

© Jeanne Lesinski, 2010