Chow Town

Purslane: Don’t weed it, eat it

Purslane leaves.
Purslane leaves. klu@kcstar.com

A few weeks ago, through the CSA I subscribe to, I tried something new: purslane.

The leafy plant is considered a weed, but the note from the farmer assured that it is a highly edible and nutritional plant; she called it one of her favorite “weeds.” (CSA stands for community-supported agriculture and I receive a weekly delivery of produce for a subscription fee.)

According to the University of Illinois Extension Office, purslane is native to India and Persia and many cultures consider it a food. It is related to the portulaca family and looks like a baby jade plant.

As for the nutritional value, purslane contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and C, according to Nutrition-and-You.com, a site run by a pediatrician/nutritionist. Yes, the same omega-3 found in fish oil — a fascinating fact.

When it comes to taste, purslane (at least the ones I got) is pretty mild. Its thickness gives it more body than other leafy greens and it holds up well to tossing.

The farmer’s note specified that purslane is better raw, and she suggested putting it in a potato salad with scallions and a vinaigrette dressing.

I added some to a cucumber and tomato salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. I make my own dressing by whisking together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a dollop each of mustard and mayonnaise, and pinches of sugar, salt and pepper.

I asked my coworkers who subscribe to the same CSA about how they used their purslane. Derek Donovan and Jennifer Hack both added it to kale salads.

Derek said he dressed his salad with white balsamic vinegar, walnut oil, salt, pepper and romano cheese. Jennifer said she added it to kale, roasted beets and onion. Both also noted they first massaged their kale leaves with olive oil. Jennifer said that to her, purslane tasted a little bitter, “like the end of a cucumber.”

While I probably won’t seek purslane out to buy, I now have a new appreciation for the edible weed. And I ate something I’ve never had before — always a good thing.

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