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Purslane turns out to be a tasty weed

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By Jeneen Wiche

I have long understood that purslane could be used in salads or soups but never made much of an effort to harvest it until a few years ago. So, when high summer approaches I am now on the hunt for purslane, considered a noxious weed by most! I am not the only one who regards purslane with some culinary virtue. A fellow Farm Market farmer at the Belknap Farmers Market gave me a taste of his homemade salsa he was snaking on last week, commenting, is the best way to use purslane‚ and I was so excited to hear someone else get excited about this so-called weed.
My friend and author Nancy Gift describes purslane (Portulacca olereaca) as a flat-growing plant with succulent, thick leaves, usually roughly an inch long and a thick stem. It grows best in dry places (sand, gravel) but also grows in gardens. Purslane leaves are deep green, slightly shiny, with small whitish hairs underneath, and the leaf edges and stems often have a purplish or reddish cast. It has a jade like appearance for a weed. In Nancy’s book, Good Weed, Bad Weed, she definitely represents the good side of the piquant-tasting green. Consider giving it a try; and watch for her book if you are interested in learning more about the virtues of all living things.
I found a few recipes that complement the flavor of purslane which I can best describe as sour-piquant. Any variation on the theme will work so don’t bother sticking to the recipes exactly. You can also just add a few of its leaves to any leafy green salad.
Everyone’s favorite is the purslane potato salad: boil 3 or 4 medium potatoes (about 10 minutes) and let cool in a large shallow bowl, cut into desired peices. Combine a cup of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt for your dressing. On top of the potatoes layer rough cut tomatoes, cucumbers, onion and pepper, purslane, and chopped mint (more or less as you desire of anything). Drizzle the dressing, salt and pepper to taste and toss gently. One time I also added a few dollops of ricotta cheese which gave the salad a slight creamy texture. You could use yogurt or sour cream, too.
One of the ways I sell this salad on my guests is bragging on the nutrient values of purslane; it is high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, beta carotene, magnesium and potassium; so, therefore, good for blood pressure and cholesterol. Why are we not eating more of this! The next recipe was a simple tomato, cucumber, purslane, basil and yogurt salad. Think about marinated cucumbers with a yogurt base instead of vinegar and a few more ingredients. Season it as you wish.
Purslane is an annual and will be knocked back by the first frost so before this happens I wwwwwill gather what I can find and make a fall gumbo. When purslane is cooked in a broth it actually acts as a thickening agent (similar to okra). This recipe came via Esther Heizer in Clarksville, Indiana to my father many years ago. Saute 1 cup chopped onion in about a tablespoon of butter; blend in about a tablespoon flour, add 1 cup of chopped tomatoes, 2 cups (or more) stock, about 1 pound cubed fish or chicken (or keep it vegetarian and add more vegetables), 2 cups purslane and a handful of chopped fresh basil. Let it all simmer until meat and or vegetables are tender. I have also heard that purslane is a good flavor compliment to pork and lamb so this will be on the fall menu, as well, anyone have any recipe ideas there?