With this slightly cooler weather we are having in and around Shreveport, some of the wild greens that had completely died back from the heat months ago are starting to show themselves again. Purslane (portulaca oleracea) is one of our top picks for wild food. It is insanely nutritious (a real powerhouse of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which are hard to find in the plant kingdom in real concentration and are hard to find in the most optimal concentrations of 3-6-9) and mild in flavor.
Purslane is a European import (as many of our garden weeds are!), where it was cultivated as a garden vegetable. It has a documented history of use going back thousands of years and was only in the last generation or so that it has fallen out of favor and memory.
Purslane transplants wonderfully and is a good idea because if you live in a city or suburban area, purslane loves to grow in the most unsuitable of environments- alongside busy roads, curbsides, sprouting out of cracks in the sidewalk, and in parking lots. It seems to LOVE growing out of the concrete! These are places that you would not want to collect from if you will be eating it, as car exhaust fumes and other environmental pollutants will most likely be present but you can collect seeds from it or transplant a bit into your own garden quite easily! You might get lucky and find growing in your home garden , a local community garden or in a non-treated lawn in your neighborhood.
Non-cultivated varieties of purslane will generally not have such showy flowers. Most wild purslane will have flowers that are much smaller white to yellow blooms.
We tend to eat purslane raw in salads, as I don’t particularly care for the texture of cooked purslane but it is very versatile. We also pickle a few jars in apple cider vinegar and it preserves it well. <check out our last post on herbal vinegars for more on that!> It so works extremely well chopped and folded into sauces, curries, soups etc- it’s mucilage even helping to thicken the dish. If you haven’t tried purslane yet, give it a go! The stems, leaves, flowers and seeds are all edible.
The only poisonous lookalike for purslane is spurge. The two don’t really look alike but you do need to be able to tell the difference. Be careful a because they sometimes grow together in the same bed. One easy and tell-tale way to differentiate between the two is that spurge has milky white sap, whereas purslane does not.