This time of year, if I had to depend only on what I plant, I would carry home much less food from my garden. The promise of abundance is there, but very little is ready to eat just yet. Thankfully, the wild edibles that volunteer in my plot and its periphery are plentiful.
Right now I am weeding the onion patch. Volunteer purslane has been rapidly filling in the space between the onions. It seems to grow overnight so the ratio of volunteers to onions is getting out of hand.

My weeding is a slow process. I hand pull the weed, cut off the root while doing my best to keep the tops free from soil, and then carefully stow the succulent stems and leaves in my harvest bag. The onions will be ready in two months, but we’ll eat the purslane for dinner tonight. Actually, it’s such a big bagful that I’ll freeze at least half of it for winter meals.

 I’m not the only gardener who is delighted with the purslane. An elderly European man walking by saw me working and stopped to congratulate me. In his country, he told me, all the women go out into the common spaces to gather baskets and baskets of purslane. It causes him great sorrow to see people here throwing it on the compost pile.

A few years ago, I heard a husband say to his wife, “Be sure to grab some purslane from the corn patch before we leave.”

I asked, “What is it good for?” and he replied, “What isn’t it good for?” 

That led to some research.
A herbal medicine practitioner could describe purslane as antibacterial, diuretic, antiscorbutic (combatting scurvy), depurative (detoxifying and purifying), and febrifuge (fever-reducing).

For the rest of us who are thinking more in terms of growing nutritious food, purslane contains surprisingly high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, rivaling fish as a source of this important nutrient. Then there are the minerals: calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and a small amount of selenium. And the vitamins. Purslane supplies plentiful Vitamin A, more that we get from almost any of our cultivated garden greens. It has seven times more beta-carotene than carrots, and six times more vitamin E than spinach. It is also a rich source of Vitamin C. In fact, it has been called one of the most nutritious foods on the planet.

Of course none of this would matter much if it didn’t taste good, but it does. People use it in a variety of ways, both raw and cooked. Purslane and cucumber is a great salad combination. Try Lime Mint Purslane Salad and you’ll see what I mean.

My favourite use is to lightly sauté onions and chopped purslane in olive oil, adding cooked quinoa at the last minute. Purslane and Quinoa Skillet 

Purslane can be abundant and I hate to waste any of it so I also chop, blanch and freeze the surplus to add to winter soups.

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