As I was waiting for the Sullivan mobile locksmith to show up, I spotted something that looked vaguely familiar. For $1, I could buy two pots of yellow-blooming purslane, which I have seen people in mid-Missouri identify as a weed. Easy to do since it grows almost everywhere including sidewalk cracks, in my deck pots; almost anywhere there is soil, and bad soil, at that.
As I was waiting for the Sullivan mobile locksmith to show up, I spotted something that looked vaguely familiar.
For $1, I could buy two pots of yellow-blooming purslane, which I have seen people in mid-Missouri identify as a weed. Easy to do since it grows almost everywhere including sidewalk cracks, in my deck pots; almost anywhere there is soil, and bad soil, at that.
The plant is a native of India and a relative to the dry-loving Portulaca or moss rose. It grew all over our gardens in South America, and I can still remember the delight years later when I saw a teeny tiny pot of the colorful flowers at a local garden center.
They lose something in scale but they are still one of the prettiest, hardiest and long-lasting annuals one can grow in mid-Missouri’s increasingly hot, dry summer weather.
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, purslane is grown as a vegetable in most other parts of the world except North America. In specialty markets, Portulaca oleracea sells for $7 a pound, in part because it has to be harvested before the day-long-only yellow flowers turn to seeds.
Most recipes call for only the tips, and leaves, although I found an older recipe that said the whole plant can be either boiled or blanched and served with butter, salt and pepper.
One of the more amazing facts about purslane is that it has more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable, even more than found in similar servings of salmon or fish oil. It also has plenty of vitamins A, B and C, iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium. And we don’t have to deliberately fish it or plant it!
The flavor is mildly but pleasantly sour. When it marinates with other vegetables, I can barely detect it is in the dish but I like the green color it adds. In terms of texture, it is slightly slimy like okra, which may explain why in some countries it is used as a soup thickener.
It is best used fresh but I have nicely stored a supply when I didn’t have time to immediately use it. Wrap in a moist paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator vegetable bin.
Purslane has a nice crisp crunch and is a perfect alternative to salad greens like Romaine lettuce and spinach. I have also been adding it to my cucumber salad concoctions.
Here’s my latest cucumber salad experiment:
Purslane Cucumber Salad
1 cup purslane, large stems removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar (more like a generous splash)
1 teaspoon sugar
1-2 sliced cucumbers
1-2 sliced tomatoes
Red onion, salt and pepper to taste
Let cucumbers and red onions marinate in the oil and vinegar for a couple of days, and then add tomatoes and purslane right before serving.
This is my third summer having to call a locksmith. Locking my keys in unusual places inside my car when I am out of town has become a yearly summer routine. Interesting how we develop new habits, isn’t it?
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a rapidly changing climate. Copyright 2014 used with permission by Rolla Daily News and Waynesville Daily Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org.