Last week, I was pruning tomato plants at the farm when I noticed a vaguely familiar plant growing amongst the tomatoes. It had fleshy, succulent, paddle-shaped leaves and thick, reddish stems that crept along the ground. After studying it for a moment, it came to me – purslane! I recognized it from one of my field guides.
Purslane, it turns out, loves rich garden soils, often to farmers’ dismay. But this weed is also a delicious treat.
After confirming my identification with one of the farmers, I started nibbling on the purslane as I trained tomato plants. It had a sweet-sour flavor that reminded me of a very mild green banana and a lovely chewy texture. I liked it so much that I harvested a pound to bring home and experiment with.
Purslane leaves and stems make great additions to salads. You can also saute them or add them to soups, stews, or other vegetable dishes, but be sure not to overcook them – they’ll go slimy on you.
Besides being delicious, purslane has an exceptionally high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid, one of the highly sought-after Omega-3 fatty acids.
Purslane loves hot, humid weather, making it a great vegetable to harvest when your lettuce and salad greens start to look a bit pekid. Young leaves and tender stem tips are the most desirable.
Since purslane is a weed, you can find it popping up just about anywhere. In addition to gardens, you can find purslane in rich bottom-lands, fields, and even in the cracks of your sidewalk! You can also occasionally find it at farmers markets or buy it as a potted plant.
When foraging for purslane, watch out for spurge, a poisonous plant that grows in similar conditions to purslane. Snap a stem to confirm your identification. If there’s white, milky sap inside the stem, you might have picked spurge – discard it. Purslane stems are filled with water. Purslane stems are also thick, while spurge has a wiry stem.