Getting Fresh: All Aboard the Purslane Train
Like watercress? Then hop aboard and join me on the purslane train.
Yes, that purslane, the weed that many gardeners find prolifically annoying. But don't pull those roots just yet, my dear green thumbs. These green leaves and sorta red stems are the stuff of mega nutrition. In addition to being low cal (just seven per cup) and chock-full of Vitamins A, C, E, plus iron, calcium and potassium, purslane is - are you ready? - the number one source of Omega-3 fatty acids among green leafy vegetables, beating out the touted spinach eight to one.
Specifically, it's loaded with the heart-healthy alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is typically found in cold-water fatty fish such as wild salmon, anchovies, sardines or mackerel. For vegetarians and those who are landlocked, this is exciting information.
In the course of my digging, I learned that the island of Crete has long held the distinction of having the lowest coronary death rate in the world, attributed to the low-fat diet that includes many varieties of wild plants, including our friend, purslane (which in Greek is known as glystrida, just one of many spellings).
Some of you are probably wondering if something so nutritious actually tastes good. Earlier, I mentioned watercress for comparison's sake, but I'd argue that purslane has a milder, less peppery flavor, and its tender stems are not bitter, but lemony.
Like watercress or arugula, purslane goes great in salad and plays well with herbs and an interesting range of fruits and veggies. My breakfast this morning was an ad hoc potato salad with an olive oil and lemon juice vinaigrette, a healthy helping of chopped purslane, sliced cuke, tomato, red onion and some chopped parsley. At first, I was wondering about the mix of potatoes with cuke and tomato, but the combination indeed works and feels fresh on the tongue. Next time, I think I'll throw a few chopped olives into the mix.
In her "Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini," Elizabeth Schneider suggests adding purslane to "sandwiches, tacos and spring rolls" as well as chopping it up for tuna, egg or chicken salad.
I'm seeing a purslane omelet in my future and perhaps the parsley in my tabbouleh can make room for a twist of lemony purslane.
I haven't cooked the stuff yet, though I'm told it's a bit mucilaginous making it a good thickener for soups and stews.
The salad below is inspired by a recipe from the September 2004 issue of Food & Wine magazine, developed by Greek cooking expert Diane Kochilas. There goes that Greek reference again.
By the way, I don't have purslane growing in my back yard (but now I'm tempted). I picked up my maiden supply last weekend at Arlington Courthouse farm market.
So, tell me: Ever hop aboard the purslane train? Share your favorite way to eat the good weed in the comments area below.
3 medium waxy potatoes, such as Yukon golds or fingerlings, sliced into chunks, about ½ inch thick
salt to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 ½ lemons); alternatively use red wine vinegar
About 1 cup purslane, thoroughly washed, torn or chopped (stems are tangier than leaves, taste first to see if you like)
½ cup red onion, thinly sliced (alternatively, use a few chopped scallions)
½ cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced, into half moon shapes
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
½ cup fresh herbs - mint, parsley, chervil - whatever suits you
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and add salt and potatoes. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and then pour into a serving bowl, spreading even to cover bottom surface.
Combine olive oil and lemon juice in a small dish, whisking until well emulsified, then pour over potatoes.
In a layered fashion, add purslane, onion, plus any additional ingredients. With a wooden spoon, stir to combine, and taste for salt.
Makes enough for 2 or 3 as a side dish.
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