Ever seen this succulent weed popping up in your vegetable garden or flower beds? A low-lying plant with a shallow root system, thick red-tinged stems and oval leaves, common purslane loves to grow in recently disturbed ground. It is one of the easier weeds to uproot, but before you throw it into your yard debris bin, you might want to consider adding some to your dinner salad! Believe it or not, this little weed has a citrusy flavor and contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable, as well as a host of vitamins and minerals including A, C, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron.
The Chatfield Community Garden at St. Gregory’s, where we maintain two rental plots, has had an abundance of this unintended vegetable this summer. As I go about weeding, I occasionally bring home a sackful of purslane with the shell peas and zucchini, and despite my mom’s suspicious expressions, have been using it in various ways around the kitchen. Being a leafy green, purslane can be used just as you would spinach, either raw or cooked. I’ve tossed sprigs into our salad greens, stirred it into tomato sauce (seen here with stuffed zucchini) and soup (soon to come), and used it almost like an herb in tabbouleh and yogurt-smashed red potatoes. I keep meaning to stir some into scrambled eggs too.
I had so much wild purslane just from our community plots that I decided to try my hand at fermenting it as well. I used the basic lacto-fermentation ratios (1 T sea salt and 4 T whey, with enough filtered water to cover a quart jar full of purslane sprigs and garlic cloves). It’s been bubbling away for a while now, but I haven’t had a chance to taste it yet. I am told that purslane can be dehydrated (although I haven’t tried this yet) or stored as a frozen puree, with mucilaginous qualities that make it a good thickener for soups and sauces. However you go about it, purslane is worth leaving as ground cover for your garden and as a supplement to your summer diet!