Purslane photo by Amy Renea
Thank you for purslane. Thank you for a weed that is everywhere you look (once you start looking) that tastes like lemons and limes and a little bit of pepper. Thank you offering up this delicious plant in zones where lemon trees won’t grow outdoors. Oh, and thanks for loading it with more omega 3’s than a cup of spinach.
Readers — meet purslane.
(If you would like the full nutrition workup on purslane, just click here.)
This little plant is probably growing in your backyard. Look in cracks in the driveway or in your potting soil from last year. The seeds are notorious for getting in there. (Good for them! They have spunk!) The plant rips out easily as a weed, but beware … when you rip out purslane it goes into survival mode. For a plant, that means make seed. Once you rip out that little weed, it will quickly make untold amounts of seed and propagate itself all over your garden. That in itself is not a terrible thing if you learn how to harvest and eat it. Just beware — yes?
I grow purslane in dish gardens. In a throwback to the ways of the ’70s, dish gardens are simply miniature gardens in a dish. Simple, yes? The real catch to a successful dish garden is to NOT overwater the plants. The water cannot drain and the only escape is evaporation, so water lightly and only as needed.
To propagate purslane, simply cut or pull off a stem 1″-3″ long and push the broken stem into the soil. Watch and wait and you will soon have another purslane plant.
To harvest purslane, pinch the leaves where they meet the stem with your fingertips. Once you get a feel for how the little succulent leaves snap off, you can simply run your fingernail along the stem and take off the leaves from an entire stem (similar to harvesting thyme).
When you are preparing to eat purslane, make sure you have the right plant! Purslane has a succulent red stem and little paddle shaped leaves. It looks somewhat like euphorbias which harbor toxic “milk”, so again — beware. If you break the stem of purslane, a clear liquid will emerge. If the liquid is white, wash your hands (Euphorbia milk can cause a rash like Posion Ivy) and DO NOT eat it!
When you do get the right plant, integrate it into any recipes where you want a little citrus kick. I chop it up and use it with fresh chives on my famous potato salad. Terrible for the hips, but divine on the lips!