Food & Entertaining - Garden to Table

Cooking with purslane

By
John Kallas
Photography by
John Kallas

Discover how to enjoy this nutrient-packed plant that grows like a weed


Purslane is a wonderful wild food. It is nutritious, with great flavor, and can be eaten raw all by itself. For a leafy green, it is extremely high in omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin E, and glutathione, and will make even the persnickety less so. Purslane is pleasant-tasting with a hint of lemoniness, but I do not find it sour. It fits right into the foundational greens category because it is so mild. To most newcomers, the texture is not as familiar as a conventional green. Purslane's succulent three-dimensional form and mildly mucilaginous texture offer a pleasantly unique experience. It transforms into a more conventional green once cooked.

Use the tender leafy stem tips in all fresh-food applications. This will satisfy everyone. The tips (the upper one to two inches of leafy stems) are great in a purslane salad—a wholesome food all by itself. Most people, however, like to have more complex salads, and mixed salads are better for you. Aside from salads, purslane is great where lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, and any other leafy green are used. Make them into pesto. Experiment.

Different ways to enjoy purslane
Since the stems are a major part of this plant, and they have their own unique texture, they can have applications all their own. These are succulent, interestingly crunchy stems that are different from leafy material you are used to. So use them in different ways. Try older, stiffer ones for dipping in fondues or to poke into dipping sauces. Give them to kids as snacks. With experience, you'll learn how to exclude parts that are too close to the root area. I love the stems.

The older leafy stems, below the stem tips and quite far down the stem, are good too. They are crunchier than the tips and have small leafy stems sprouting out of them. I chop bite-size pieces of the stems into my salads.

Cooking methods
Cooking of any type relaxes the greens, making them more like the cooked greens that you are used to. They can be boiled, sautéed, stir-fried, steamed, baked-you name it; you are only limited by your imagination. Cook them into lasagnas, spaghetti sauces, bean casseroles, stews, and anywhere vegetables go. Cooking reduces the coarseness you might find in some of the older stems, making them more agreeable.

The flowers and seeds of purslane are edible but too tiny to have any use of their own. So go ahead and eat them along with the leafy stems you gather.

 

Edible-Wild-Plants-cover100.jpg Excerpted from Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate by John Kallas, PhD Copyright © 2010. Excerpted by permission of Gibbs Smith. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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