I present to you the most gourmet plate of weeds that you could possibly eat! Yes, weeds. You know, those things you rip out of the garden and toss away. Perhaps it’s time to redefine what we consider weeds.
Called γλυστριδα (glee-STREE-tha) in Greek, purslane (also called garden purslane, little hogweed, pusley, and wild portulaca) is likely to have originated in the Middle East and parts of Asia. However, it’s everywhere now, probably even in your yard. If not, it’s popularity has increased recently so you may find it at your local farmer’s market or well stocked grocery store. If push comes to shove, you can buy seeds for some of the multiple varieties that exist. Kind of ironic that we now purposefully buy things that villagers would just gather from a field and modern day gardeners curse.
Purslane has been consumed for thousands of years, even having been written about by Pliny the Elder in ancient Greece. Despite its ancient roots, you want to eat purslane now, and not just for it’s good flavor. It’s a total nutritional powerhouse, being packed with omega-3 fatty acids and lots of key vitamins. It is also high in oxalic acid, much like spinach and chard are, which is what purslane tastes similar to. Oxalates are one of those things you don’t want too terribly much of as it is implicated in health issues like kidney stones. However, you’d have to eat quite a bit for that to become an issue. It’s just something to be aware of.
Purslane is able to survive hot and dry conditions, but the metabolic pathways that allow it to do so can cause purslane to have a sour, kind of lemony taste. The level of tart that you like will determine the best time for you to harvest purslane from the garden. The compounds that cause the tart flavor will be higher in the morning, but will be broken down into sugars throughout the day. Milder weather and areas that get rain or irrigation will also lead to less tart flavor.
All parts of purslane are edible, but you will likely find that the tender stems and leaves will have the best texture and flavor. Thicker stems are a little chewier and so they’re not quite my favorite. I like to harvest purslane in a cut-and-come-again kind of manner. I’ll trim off stems leaving a little of the plant behind to regrow. It’s a self-propagating food source that pretty much grows year round!
Greek Purslane Salad Recipe
This is one of those recipes that isn’t really a recipe as much as it is a general guide for assembly. Best kind of recipe there is!
- Purslane leaves and tender stems
- Tomatoes cut into bite size pieces
- Crumbled feta cheese
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Lemon juice (optional, but really good to perk up purslane that lacks tart flavor)
Put all the ingredients into a bowl in the quantities desired and gently toss together. It’s best to leave the lemon until you know if you’ll want it and then add the amount desired. Enjoy!