It arrived in my weekly vegetable box. The weed a.k.a. The Green Surprise! Oh, I knew what it was, and I knew it was edible. Yet my initial thought on seeing it was, “Throw it away! Quickly!” I had spent many an afternoon pulling this type of weed from my herb and flower garden. I knew that, on uprooting its green succulent stems, its survival instinct causes it to drop thousands of seeds tinier than the period at the end of this sentence. And, now, here it was, in my vegetable box! Feelings of repugnance rose up until my logical brain was able to kick into gear. “Maybe, just maybe, there is some nutritional value to this plant?” Feeling calmer, I decided to do a little research. I rationalized that, since I had paid for my vegetable box, including the green surprise, I might as well give it a try.
Wild portulaca, or purslane as it is commonly known, is an annual succulent that readily self sows – up to 200,000 seeds per plant! It can grow anywhere that has a 2-month growing season. It is somewhat crunchy, with a slight lemony taste. The leaves are crunchy-tender and can be tossed into a salad for some culinary interest which is how I decided to try it. Although one cup has 25 mg of Vitamin C, it would take a lot of leaf-picking to get one cup! What I added to my salad was perhaps 1-2 tablespoons, enough for a garnish.
The key nutrient in purslane, however, is not the Vitamin C, but the Omega 3 essential fatty acids – alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids. (We usually think of fatty fish, like salmon, as a source of Omega 3s.) Purslane also provides Vitamin E, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorous.
So next time you see purslane in your garden, know that you can weed it or eat it!
Thanks to Claire Poulton at Little Fields Farm for my weekly veggie box and for expanding my culinary horizons!