Christopher Nyerges: Purslane — Versatile, tasty plant found world-wide
Special to The Union
One of the most common urban and garden weeds this time of the year is the purslane plant.
Henry Thoreau was fond of eating purslane, and consumed it frequently during his Walden Pond experiment.
“I learned that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain health and strength,” Thoreau wrote. “I have made a satisfactory dinner off a dish of purslane which I gathered and boiled. Yet men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not from want of necessities, but for want of luxuries.”
Purslane is probably one of the most versatile and well-liked weeds commonly available.
Not only is it found in Nevada County, but it’s found all over the U.S. and the world.
This native from India can be eaten raw, lightly cooked, pickled, fried, in soup and stews, and the seeds can be ground into flour.
Though not usually available at the produce section of supermarkets, it often appears at farmers markets.
In salads, use all the plant but the root. Wash it carefully to remove any dirt and sand adhering to this low-growing plant.
Chop the leaves and stems for the salad.
The leaves are mild tasting and slightly slimy. The thick, succulent stems are juicy and “crunchy.”
As with spinach, the plant should be lightly cooked in a small amount of water, seasoned, and eaten.
Gently fried, either alone or with onions, eggs, etc., it’s a delicious entree.
The chopped stem and leaves also mix well in soup, stews, and egg omelettes.
Purslane is not only good and versatile, it’s good for you!
Dried purslane has been found to be about 30 percent albuminoids (protein) and 35 percent carbohydrates. A total of 100 grams of purslane contains 2500 I.U. of vitamin A when cooked; 0.10 mg. of riboflavin and 0.06 cooked; 103 mg. of calcium raw and 86 cooked; 25 mg. of vitamin C raw and 12 mg. cooked; 21 calories; and small amounts of phosphorus, niacin, and thiamine.
In 1986, purslane was identified as being the richest leafy-plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, a substance that helps reduce the body’s cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart attack.
This discovery was made by Norman Salem, Jr., a lipid biochemist (with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, Maryland).
Recognizing purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
Purslane is a low-growing fleshy herb, whose outstretched, sprawling, prostrate stems are from three to twelve inches long. The stems are tinted red, round-shaped and very succulent. The leaves are succulent and paddle-shaped. The tiny little flowers are yellow.
Christopher Nyerges is the author of “Guide to Wild Foods,” “Enter the Forest,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” and “Testing Your Outdoor Survival Skills”. He has been leading Wild Food Outings since 1974. A schedule of his classes is available from School of Self-Reliance, Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or online at http://www.ChristopherNyerges.com.
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