Purslane: Weed or Nutritional Powerhouse??

pursalaneDid you know that many of the weeds in our backyards are actually edible? And in many cases, they are super nutritious?

There are dozens of edible plants around us but they are often overlooked.

Most of these plants are close relatives to the vegetables and herbs that are cultivated in our gardens but they grow on their own accord and are free for the picking.

The interesting thing is that these wild edible plants often contain higher levels of nutrients than their cultivated counterparts that we rely upon for food. How cool is that?!

While it is exciting to find medicinal plants in your surroundings, make sure that:

* If you're not positive about the identification of any weed or plant growing wild ... Don't Eat It! After you have identified it, start slowly when introducing edible weeds to your diet to make sure that you can tolerate the new food. Sample new edibles in small amounts to start with; if you have no adverse affect after some time a little more can be eaten.

* Don't harvest and eat any edible weeds or wild plants growing along side highways, or in an area that may have been treated with any type of chemical spray. To stay on the safe side just use the wild edibles growing in your own garden.

A great resource is Wildman Steve Brill's website and books. (He is a character. We met him years ago when the kids were young and he had a presentation at the Princeton Library).

So today I want to introduce you to one particular "weed" that is truly a nutritional powerhouse. Purslane. 

Check out my video I did live on Facebook.  
Purslane is also known as duckweed, fatweed, pursley, pussley and wild portulaca.

Mexicans call it Verdolagao and its name in Malawi translates politely as "buttocks of the chief's wife", a possible reference to the plump leaves.

It is a trailing annual with reddish, fleshy stems that trail around on the ground like a vine. Young plants have a green stem but as the plant matures the stems take on reddish tints. The leaves are fleshy, oval or spoon shaped. It is crunchy and has a slight lemony and cucumber taste.

It is said that Arab traders introduced this plant to Europe in the 15th century. In the Middle East, this plant is esteemed as a salad herb.

Purslane might be a common herb, but it has uncommon qualities. It is one of the healthiest things you can eat. It can be harvested from early June till the end of summer, and can either be foraged or purchased, usually from a farmers market or if you are part of a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture.) 

Key Nutritional Benefits:

1) Rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, calcium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorous.

2) Purslane has also recently been identified as one of the highest known concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids in any plant. (Omega-3 fatty acid plays an important role in human growth, development and preventing diseases. Moreover, this fatty acid cannot be synthesized by humans and therefore has to be ingested.)

3) Purslane is an antioxidant bomb as well.

Therapeutic Uses:

Purslane has been used all over the world for headaches, stomach, digestive and liver ailments, burns, cough, shortness of breath and arthritis; as a purgative, cardiac tonic, muscle relaxant, and in anti-inflammatory and diuretic treatments. Also benefits conditions such as osteoporosis and psoriasis.

How to Use:

Use it in salads with tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, onions and extra virgin olive oil. 

A friend of mine, Szilvia who lives in Turkey,
where purslane is very popular, recommended tossing the leaves with garlicky yogurt. Yum!

Or make a stew with amaranth, purslane, olive oil, tomato sauce + lots of onions and garlic.  

Pickle them, add to scrambled eggs, toss with pasta, make purslane vinegar or if you have chickens, feed it to them. Their eggs will be richer in omega-3 fatty acids.

Many use it in smoothies and I like to just pinch it and eat off the plant. I have it growing in a pot next to our backdoor. 

The possibilities are endless! Click here for more ideas.

Note: If you are pregnant or have digestive problems, it is best to avoid this plant. Purslane can also be confused with another plant that is dangerous to eat, so before you go grabbing a handful to eat, PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT PLANT!

Now, go ahead and look for it in your own backyard. You probably have it growing alongside your plants in the veggie garden, or maybe it has been popping up near the side of your house or nestling right next to one of your potted plants. Happy hunting!

Purslane Salad

pursalane 1

2 1/2 cups of strained, thick, full fat organic plain Greek yogurt
1 cup of purslane, coarsely chopped
1 cup of romaine lettuce, chopped in chunks
1 teaspoon of mashed or minced garlic
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 1/2 Tbsp of org. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp of capers
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl and refrigerate for a half hour to an hour.

Adapted from Diane Kochilas.


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