Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wild Weedy Purslane

Purslane is a edible weed found all over the world. It was known and used in ancient times in the Mediterranean and Middle east, though facts of its origins are still iffy- I have seen sources state origins as varied as western Asia, North Africa and even the Americas. I myself have seen this hearty green growing in Italy and Vietnam. Purslane is a classic ingredient in the Lebanese pita bread salad fattoush. In Mexico it is popular and known as verdolaga, where it is usually cooked instead of eaten raw.

I introduced purslane to my yard many years ago. Many people would question this as bad judgment. Though considered a prized cultivated green by some, it is a despised relentless weed to many others. It has taken a few years to establish itself in the weed community in my garden but this year it has definitely seeded its way to the top. One plant can produce hundreds of thousands of tiny black seeds!

I have always enjoyed purslane for its uniqueness among other everyday greens. Its beautiful succulent leaves are reminiscent of jade bushes and their slightly sour taste is a pleasant surprise. Its thick leaves stand up in vegetable salads with out wilting-- perfect when going to summer potlucks. I recently made this super simple salad for a BBQ with purlsane-- four different types of cucumbers(they grow intertwined with purslane in my garden), raw sea beans, scallions, dill, a tin of sardines and just a simple dressing of rice vinegar, lemon and olive oil.

A search on the web finds many cooks and health foodies praising this little known weed. The number one reason purslane stands out from the other greens in your fridge is its high content of omega 3 fatty acids, more than any other green vegetable. Some experts recommend eating this superfood instead of taking omega 3 supplements. Also can be used as a healing herb for such things as healing wounds and chronic cough.

If you haven't been introduced to purslane by your garden's weed community it can often be found at farmer's markets or Asian and Latino grocery stores. In Seattle, Local Roots and Alm Hill sell it at the farmer's markets this time of year. There are many varieties of purslane-- wild types are usually small leafed, cultivated have big leaves and longer stems. It is best to harvest before flowering and stems toughen.

with the soft bun, omega 3's, and mayonnaise
this sandwich is like a veggie version of a lobster roll

Heirloom Tomato, Mayo and Purslane Sandwich

Put this all together and enjoy a purely summer treat:

Bread of choice, toasted-
best on sliced sandwich style bread, though good on both wonder type bread and seedy hippy bread (or even a hamburger bun as I used in the picture)
Thick sliced heirloom tomato-
it's the beginning of tomato season around here but Billy's at the West Seattle and University markets has luscious heirlooms already
A thick slathering of mayonnaise
Sprigs of purslane
Salt and pepper
Optional- Few leaves basil or mint, pickled or raw sweet onions, or cucumber slices

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