Friday, July 24, 2009

Purslane: All You Really Need To Know


7/24/09 - 6th Day - Afternoon - Preparation of the Sabbath. Today I am going to be talking about Purslane. Specifically, I will be talking about wild purslane and not particularly the domesticated kinds. "Portulaca oleracea (Common Purslane, also known as Verdolaga, Pigweed, Little Hogweed or Pusley), is an annual succulent in the family Portulacacea"... at least that is what Wikipedia says. For me, purslane is one of the first of a series of perennial vegetables that I formerly considered weeds, but which I now consider very good food. About a year and a half ago I bought a book entitled Perennial Vegetables written by Eric Toensmeier. This book really opened my eyes to a lot of really good information and ideas:

1. That traditional row and cash cropping created annuals of a lot of good plants that were once perennials.

2. That there are over 100 plants that can be grown as perennials in your vegetable gardens, meaning that you will likely never have to plant them again; you just maintain them like you would a perennial flower garden, but you can eat them!

3. That having a large source of perennial food on my land would just be wise and intelligent, and that my mind had been colonized into the "row crop" and annual garden mentality.

When I was reading about Perennial Vegetables, I came to the topic of Purslane and I recognized the plant as one that I had seen on our property. Purslane, in some places, is considered an invasive weed, but here in our part of Texas it grows well in our sometimes hard, dry, compact soil, and it handles drought and heat very well. Well, it turns out that Danielle had planted some herbs in several pots last year, and this year she had not replanted the herbs so we had these pots full of dirt that she had gotten off of our land. Well, this spring Purslane starts growing in all of these "empty" pots! I read around and checked multiple sites to make sure we had real purslane, and it was the real thing. So I built a very large raised bed and planted the purslane in that bed to let it spread and take over the whole bed. I started by eating a few leaves here and there, and I really, really liked it. Now, whenever we make a salad, Purslane (both the leaves and the reddish stems) is part of the salad.

Here is the description of Purslane:

" It has smooth, reddish, mostly prostrate stems and alternate leaves clustered at stem joints and ends. The yellow flowers have five regular parts and are up to 6 mm wide. The flowers appear depending upon rainfall and may occur year round. The flowers open singly at the center of the leaf cluster for only a few hours on sunny mornings. Seeds are formed in a tiny pod, which opens when the seeds are ready. Purslane has a taproot with fibrous secondary roots and is able to tolerate poor, compacted and drought." (Wikipedia)
I can tell you that Purslane absolutely thrives in our hot and usually dry climate, and it can be found throughout the ranch - most noticeably in recently disturbed soil. There is another plant that looks a very little bit like Purslane (not much) that is poisonous, so you do have to be careful. "Spurge" is a plant that mimics a bit of what Purslane looks like, but it has thinner and more wiry stems, whereas the Purslane has a stem that is succulent, reddish, and very thick. The Spurge plant gives off a white, milk-like sap if you break the stem, so this is a very good indication that you don't have Purslane. In my opinion, it would be very difficult to mistake Spurge for Purslane if you are at all careful.

Purslane leaves and stems are thick and succulent, and the leaves are usually the size and shape of a paperclip. Purslane is somewhat juicy or succulent and has just a tinge of sour/salt taste which makes it a great addition to a fresh salad. We also use it in stir fry, soups and stews. The leaves, the stems, the flowers, and even the seeds are edible on the Purslane plant, and Purslane is a very, very healthy addition to the diet. Purslane contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other vegetable plant, has large quantities of Vitamins A, B, C and Carotenoids, as well as many necessary minerals and some potent antioxidents.

For the most part, Purslane was used as a medicine by many early cultures; particularly Purslane was used to heal and treat problems with the gastrointestinal and urinary systems, as well as being used topically on sores on the skin.

And it tastes great!

If you do not have Purslane growing on your property, it can be purchased at many online seed and plant stores. Some of these stores also have domesticated and garden varieties that have been "finessed" to produce larger and more succulent leaves. Check out Territorial Seed Company which produces and sells several different varieties of Purslane, or just go on a hike or to a park and keep your eyes open for it. Purslane transplants very easily, and can also be planted from tiny seeds which are produced late in the summer. Set aside a place in your garden or on your land for Purslane, because once you plant it it is (thankfully) going to stick around awhile.

Frankly, I hope to eventually have 2-3 large beds of Purslane, and I intend to continue to find and plant other perennial vegetables into my garden to enhance our perennial food supply.

Your servant in Christ Jesus,

Michael Bunker

7 comments:

Ginny said...

I tasted purslane for the first time earlier this spring. It tastes very good. :-D I just got a lot out of my garden earlier this afternoon. What a co-inky-dink. LOL! I have been thinking of the same types of things: wild edibles/perennial veggies. I think I read an old post of yours, last year, that mentioned it and that sparked my thought process. :-D I recently go the book The Forager's Harvest. Very interesting. I will have to put the book you mentioned on my want list.

Renée said...

I must confess I'd never heard of purslane, and have never had an opportunity to taste it.

I do have the book you mentioned, but have not really gotten myself around to reading it. That will be put down as the next thing on my 'to do' list.

Thanks for the info.

Martha said...

When I was weeding this morning I let the purslane sit there, recalling that I had read something about it being used in salads at expensive restaurants.

Thanks for the tips. I'll keep allowing it to grow between the flowers.

Tomorrow, I'll take a bite and check out the flavor.

The Sustaires said...

One type of Purslane that grows here on the land is called "Chinese Hat" because of the shape of the seed pod after the flowers are gone. I transplanted some from one part of our property to a spot closer to our house and they took very well to the transplant. I also forced some cuttings to grow roots in a glass of water and they did great. It tastes like romaine lettuce in my opinion.

joumana said...

I am so glad to hear that you are liking your purslane. I grew up in Lebanon and people there eat purslane all the times and especially in salads like fattoosh, which is one of the most popular salads.

Blackfoot said...

Curious if you have let your chickens or goats eat the purslane?
I have heard about studies done in greece, that chickens fed purslane have excellent omega3 to omega 6 ratios in the eggs, (here--http://www.texasgrassfedbeef.com/omega_3_fatty_acids.htm) but I also saw a study where goats were sickend by regular consumption. (here--http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0921448802001827)

Just wondering what your experience has been.

All the best, from a fellow traveler.

Tehniat Aftab said...

I live in the Sub Continent, and I tasted purslane for the first time in our traditional manner cooking it with chicken and it tasted delicious. How to cook it, I have it on my website: www.bonvivantlifestlye.com