Among numerous other blessings, my new home provides a bountiful garden. The taste of store-bought vegetables can’t begin to compete with that of home-grown, in my opinion. Whether roasted, steamed, or just plain raw, home-grown veggies possess a flavorful sweetness sadly lacking in supermarket fare. I actually enjoy eating them. That says a lot, considering I’m one of those nutritional heretics who believes that chocolate, salt, sugar, and grease compose the basic food groups. Well, since I’ve so eagerly partaken, I thought it only right to help maintain this treasure. Early this week I offered to help with the weeding. I’ve always loved gardening and this would afford a welcome break from writing and a chance to putter around a bit, play with the cat, and commune with nature; and even though a week had passed since its last weeding, the garden appeared relatively clean. How hard could it be? I would probably spend most of the time with the cat.
Day before yesterday dawned bright and clear. I went out early to beat the heat and, trowel in hand, set to work. Things started out easy enough: a handful of lamb’s quarters and infant tumbleweeds here and there. Not bad. Not bad at all. And THEN—I saw the flat fleshy green doilies strewn about between two corn rows. Inwardly I groaned. I’d encountered this stuff before: Purslane! The evil weed that spontaneously oozes from the ground. If pulled and left laying with the roots down, those roots drill their way back in; if the roots point skyward, the plant simply shoots new ones out its top and keeps going. Ack!
Mom came over with a number of grocery bags and we stuffed a half dozen with the loathsome invaders. The sun grew hot. The purslane grew fatter. I wrapped a wad of tendrils around my hand, yanked it out, and shoved it into a bag. Aliens must have planted this stuff to choke out mankind so they could take over the world! I finally concluded that the only way to eradicate this bane of my existence was to turn it into a money crop somehow and then watch it shrivel and die. The heat intensified. I hallucinated about building a still and making bootleg purslane moonshine or drying it out and smoking it. I remembered reading somewhere that people eat this stuff and, since it had grown too hot to work anyway, decided to put my trowel away and do some research.
What I found intrigued me. This crisp succulent is not only edible, but packed with vitamins A, C, and E, along with omega-3 fatty acids. (A shortage of omega-3’s has been linked to such illnesses as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.) Purslane also supplies several B-complex vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, and carotenoids) and minerals such as iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, potassium, and zinc. It contains a high level of pectin, known to lower cholesterol. Purslane contains oxalic acid (as do spinach and other leafy greens), which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tracts of people prone to stones; otherwise, this noxious weed is actually a superfood. So. . .if you can’t beat it, eat it! Initially, though, the thought made me cringe. Surely, I thought, only a domesticated variety would be fit for human consumption—not that untamed mat growing along the driveway. And yet. . .Well, I decided to give it a shot and began searching for recipes. A Tomato, Cucumber, Purslane Salad on simplyrecipes.com caught my eye. Basically you chop a tomato and a large cucumber (after peeling the cucumber and discarding the seeds). Chop ½ cup wild purslane leaves, add a minced, seeded jalapeno chili pepper, then toss together with 2-3 tblsp. lemon juice and salt to taste. I omitted the chili pepper, added a couple of tsp. minced fresh onion, and used only 1 tblsp. lemon juice. The result? A truly savory and attractive salad I expect to enjoy many times throughout the summer.
Several sites describe the taste of purslane as sour and salty, or as lemony followed by a peppery kick. I thought it tasted pretty much like any other salad green, although I would probably liken it more to spinach. At any rate, this recipe is a keeper, and this little experiment proved you can’t judge a book by its cover. Purslane has suffered a bad rep and, of course, not everyone will like it; I, however, intend to incorporate purslane into my vegetable repertoire. It grows without any human effort; simply wait for it to appear and then leave it alone until you’re ready to eat!
Here are links to the sites from which I gleaned my information: Purslane Nutrition Facts; Power-Packed Purslane; Eat the Invaders. These are just a few. There are loads of other sites offering facts, humor, trivia, and recipes. So why not give purslane a try?
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