PURSLANE: A Southern Witch’s Flower
Cecil: Your mama thought you were golden so we named you after yellow flowers and corn. This is you here...
(cuts some purslane from garden)
Cecil: ...pretty, golden purslane.
Pursy Will: Purslane's really a weed, you know. A neighbor told me when I was 9 and I ran over his tomato plants. He said all gardeners hate purslane.
Cecil: Yeah, and dandelions. Doesn't stop kids from making wishes on 'em.
—Love Song for Bobby Long
Common name: Purslane, pigweed, little hogweed
Botanical name: Portulaca oleracea, Portulaca pilosa
Family: Portulacaceae, Purslane Family
The first time I found out that this succulent little fella had more omega-3s than most fish oils, I was done. But then, I found this:
The taste is lightly lemony and nutty at the same time, while the texture is both crunch and a little okra-y in the middle. Fantastic as a salad topper, imagine my joy all summer long! But then . . . the first freeze would come along and my little nest of heaven would die away. Because of its viscosity, I knew it wouldn’t can well. And so, out came my dehydrator! Pop the leaves off the stems and set that dehydrator to about 135 degrees—checking to make certain that nothing burns—until crunchy, then spin in a food processor and voila! It turns out, dried purslane can be substituted for other thickeners for soups and stews. It has a parsley scent in this final herbal form.
Known as verdolagas in Central Mexico, purslane is often used in salse verde, huevos, and chilaquiles. Look for the tiny yellow flowers! (The ornamentals are not advised as foodstuff. Not certain why, but I can affirm that they taste like a hog’s butt and they are often sprayed with chemicals.) When dried and put up properly (I keep all of my dried herbs in mason jars with a tea ball full of rice), mine has lasted a year!
Purslane will rehydrate, bringing back that thickener aspect to dishes.
But, for this old gal, perhaps the most exiting moment was when I learned that: when chickens eat purslane, it increases the Omega-3s in their eggs significantly! Double trouble, y’all!! There’s even some evidence that adding dried purslane to chicken feed can increase egg production—and that is something to celebrate. (To hear more about where this is from—or the argument about that location—click HERE.) Considered as one of the top ten most noxious/invasive plants in the U.S. (even though its nature is as an annual), we might as well eat and enjoy.
For recipes with purslane, click HERE and HERE.
If I haven’t talked you into it yet: let’s chew on the idea of geography. While not a true native, purslane sure as hell has its citizenship. It’s part of our landscape, deeply embedded into the southern landscape and shows up trying to be loved in our gardens every year. Is it a weed? Well, now. That depends on what you mean by “weed.” Weed is simply the signifier we slap onto something we don’t want, something we want to pull and burn. My thinking is: it’s damn good for your body, your chickens, and even the bees like the flowers. Like anything, it just needs a little magical thinking—and maybe some education—to be fully understood. So, as a crafter, I consider it part of my geography, topography and deeply magical experience on the Earth.
But, we could talk about all these blasted Mimosas . . .
Crunch into a green leaf today and get back to me?
Note: please take care to identify foraged foods properly. There are always “mimics,” and some of those are poisonous. In this case, the mimic is spurge. I’m linking a perfectly thorough article on that HERE that has better pics than mine. If it weeps a milky white substance when the stem is broken, it’s probably spurge. Purslane is clear.
Second Note: One word of caution: as does spinach, purslane contains oxalic acid which could affect those with oxalate urinary tract stones.