Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking

Purslane (page 2 of 2)

by Joan Huyser-Honig

Into the Kitchen

I use purslane as a hot weather green in mixed salads. When July heat turns leaf lettuce limp and bitter, purslane leaves and stems offer mild lemony tang and a crunch. Used raw, purslane combines well with other ingredients of midsummer salads like cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, onions and lightly steamed beans or carrots. Dr. Artemis Simopoulos, a leading advocate of the nutritional benefits of purslane, compares fresh purslane to watercress and enjoys it in cucumber salads.

Dr. Simopoulos also told me that she boils purslane like spinach and cooks it in omelets. Cooked purslane, though, is a bit mucilaginous. And as purslane approaches the flowering stage, the stems become very like okra. This thickening quality is welcomed in lamb-lentil-purslane soup, a signature dish in southeastern Turkey. This summer I plan to stir-fry purslane with other vegetables and chicken.

Cultivated purslane drops seed but doesn't aggressively reseed; seeds-people from California to Connecticut confirm this tidy habit. By early August my trouble-free plants started to fade, yellow and dry out. They composted themselves by the first fall frost.

It is important to distinguish between these new cultivated forms of purslane and weedy kinds. Wild purslane is a noxious weed that thrives in all 50 states. Some weed scientists rank it as the most frequently reported weed species in the world and the ninth most detrimental weed to world agriculture. But everyone agrees that purslane is uncommonly nutritious. Seed companies have the best culinary varieties, so now it's up to gardeners to grow it and use it.

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