Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wholesome Wednesdays: Purslane

My garden is chock full of purslane, also known as portulaca or rock rose. It loves this heat (i think it's the only one) and will spread about with such tenacity it is commonly considered a weed. It may be invasive - but it's also  delicious and nutrtitious! I find that it pulls easily if the soil is damp, so i'm happy to let it run about the garden and fill the space previously held by wildflowers. The native purslane has cute little yellow flowers that leave little cups of seeds (thus the tenacious spreading) that i scatter here and there, and could apparently brew into a healthful herbal tea. (EMAIL ME IF YOU'D LIKE SOME PURSLANE SEEDS!) You can propagate with those prolific seeds, or you can start cuttings or even transplant. This native purslane by the garden bunny was pulled from a pot where it was not wanted and stuck in the ground here. It's catching on just fine. There are also plenty of not so native portulaca varieties for sale that have prettier flowers. They're all technically edible, but i find the rugged native ones to be tastier, and the fancy flowery ones to be more visually appealing.

Native purslane above, store bought "pretty" purslane below

Purslane is one of my favorite edible weeds. It tastes a bit like cucumber, a bit like lettuce. I usually just snack on little leaves while out in the garden, but you can also add the leaves to fresh salads or stir fries or even smoothies as i did this morning - yum! Purslane has found itself on the tables of kings and other fancy mucky mucks in ancient Europe and Asia. The stems and flowers are also edible, but stick to the younger, happier looking specimens for raw eating. Purslane is not only tasty, but incredibly good for you. It's super high in many vitamins and minerals including Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6 and Folate. It's also a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. Check out this awesome web page dedicated to purslane. The most exciting piece of information i've found on purslane is that it contains MORE Omega-3s than many of those Omega rich fishes, and more than ANY other leafy green veggie! Rejoice, vegetarians: rejoice!
Purslane contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant we know of. The most common dietary source of Omega-3s are cold water fish like Salmon. Omega-3s aid the body in the production of compounds that effect blood pressure, clotting, the immune system, prevent inflammation, lower cholesterol (LDL), prevent certain cancers and control coronary spasms. In addition recent studies suggest that Omega- 3s may have positive effects on the brain and may aid in such conditions as depression, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's disease, autism, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity and migraines. Though very beneficial, there are few good dietary sources other than seafood for Omaga-3s. (Some oils, nuts, grains and other leafy vegetables do contain Omega-3s) -

Super awesome. I remember a visit with my mother a few years ago when my garden was new: she was pulling out the purslane and declaring it a "nasty weed!" It's tap root is quite long - allowing it to thrive in even the worst and dryest soil (such as it is seen growing above) and occasionally taking over if not properly managed. I have since tried to convince her to see the benefits purslane could bring to her life: perhaps she will pay attention to some of these striking facts and add that 'nasty weed' to her dinner plate on occasion! I plan on planting more in the backyard as well and adding any specimens i do pull out to my chicken's diet: the hens would love to eat this leafy green, and i'd love to eat their eggs with a higher omega content.

So: stave off cancer, increase your overall health, and put those 'nasty' weeds to work for you! Go out and forage some purslane today!

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