Purslane

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Do you know about purslane? I’m crazy about it. For those who are not familiar, it’s a little succulent that spreads like wildfire and is considered by many gardeners to be just a weed. But if it has been romping around your greenhouse or tunnel since June, don’t just moan, harvest and eat it instead. It’s super tasty, will still be in season until September and there are a million things you can do with it.

Its juicy leaves are delicious raw in salads, or lightly tossed as a vegetable or ‘side’. Purslane also pickles well and can be used in ferments or added to a soup or stew. For the purpose of identification you may want to know that the Latin name is Portulaca Oleracea. A hugely nutritious and highly esteemed vegetable, from Iran to the Cacuses as well as in the Eastern Mediterranean, Mexico and India. Purslane is a powerhouse of nutrition, lots of Omega three fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. It has notable amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium as well as vitamins A B C and E in fact it has six times more Vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. Those who have difficulty snoozing may like to know that purslane has high levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate sleep…

In his ground breaking book ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michal Pollan called purslane one of the two most nutritious plants on the planet (the other being Lambs quarters).

Interestingly both of these plants are considered by many to be a nuisance in the garden. Purslane has pinkish stems; its leaves are crunchy and slightly mucilaginous with a flavour reminiscent of lemon and freshly ground pepper.

In urban areas it even grows up through cracks in the footpaths or at the base of walls.

Purslane has been grown since ancient times and thrives in hot climates so no doubt it will be considered to be even more important in the future.

Meanwhile seek it out and enjoy it often in as many ways as possible, here are a few ideas to get you started….
 

 

Jacob Kennedy’s Tomato and Purslane Salad

 

Serves 4 as a starter or side

 

500 g (18oz) delicious tomatoes

½ small red onion

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (optional)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

100 g (3½ oz) picked purslane leaves and tips

 

Quarter the tomatoes and slice the red onion very thinly across the grain. Macerate these with the vinegar, oil and plenty of salt and pepper for 5 minutes, then toss in the leaves and have a crust of bread on hand to mop the bowl afterwards.

 

 

Rory O’ Connell’s Purslane, Avocado and Cucumber Salad

 

The contrast of textures and flavours in this simple salad is really delicious.  The crisp cucumbers complement the creamy avocado and the juiciness of the succulent purslane. Rory sometimes adds a few green grapes for an extra touch of sweetness.

 

 

Serves 6-8

 

3-4 handfuls of purslane

2 avocados

1 cucumber

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

 

 

Dressing

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Forum Chardonnay wine vinegar

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

 

 

Top, tail and halve the cucumber.  Unless it’s very fresh scoop out the seeds, a melon baller or ‘pointy’ teaspoon is good for this.   Cut into 1cm diagonal slices and transfer to a wide bowl.

Halve the avocado, remove the stone, peel and cut into haphazard dice, about 7mm.  Add to the cucumber.   Season with flaky sea salt and add some freshly cracked pepper.  Add the sprigs of purslane.  Drizzle with dressing.  Toss gently.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Arrange on individual plates and serve as soon as possible.

 

Purslane Soup from Naomi Duguid

 

Springtime in Kurdistan means “paipina”, a thick soup of lentils (nisik in Kurdish) Purslane is a wild green with small, thick, succulent leaves and reddish stems. It’s often treated as a weed in North America, but it’s a much-valued vegetable from Iran to the Caucasus, as well as in the eastern Mediterranean region, where it’s used raw in salads. Some farmers are starting to cultivate it in North America, so it should soon become easier to find.

 

Serves 8

 

225g (8oz) brown lentils, rinsed and picked over

55g (2oz) finely chopped onion

100g (3½oz) Arborio or other short-grain rice, washed and drained

1.5 to 1.8 litres (2½ to 3 pints) water or unsalted light chicken or vegetable broth, or as needed

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon turmeric

2 to 3 teaspoons sea salt, to taste

285g (10½ oz) finely chopped purslane leaves and stems

freshly ground black pepper

 

Accompaniments

Flatbreads

Fresh goat’s- or sheep’s-milk cheese

A generous Herb Plate: tarragon, chervil, mint, lovage, and scallion greens (use two or more)

 

 

Place the lentils, onion, and rice in a large pot, add 7 cups of water or broth, and bring to a vigorous boil. Skim off any foam, cover, reduce the heat to maintain a low boil, and cook until the lentils are tender, 35 to 45 minutes; add more water or broth if needed.

 

Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, turmeric, and 2 teaspoons salt, then add the purslane and stir thoroughly. Cook until the purslane is very soft and flavours have blended, about 30 minutes; add more liquid if the soup gets too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Ladle into individual bowls and sprinkle with black pepper. Put out the flatbreads, cheese, and herb plate, and invite your guests to sprinkle a little cheese onto their soup.

 

 

Summer Purslane with Tahini and Sesame seeds

 

Serves 2

 

Dressing:

½ or 1 small garlic clove

2 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon local honey

2 tablespoons of tahini

Water as needed…

350g (12oz) fresh purslane

 

To serve:

sesame seeds

 

Peel and grate the garlic on a micro-plane, put into a bowl with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey. Stir to dissolve.

 

Bring a saucepan of water to a fast rolling boil. Drop the sprigs of purslane into the pan and cook for just 30 seconds. Drain and refresh under cold water. Drain again and dry gently.

Lay on a serving plate.

Put the tahini into a bowl. Stir in the lemon mixture. It will thicken at first but go on stirring and add a little water if necessary. It should be a thick pouring consistency.

Drizzle a little tahini dressing over the purslane. Sprinkle with a sesame seeds, (optional).

Serve as a side or as an accompaniment to grilled meats or aubergines.

 

Note: Roast Hazelnut dressing or tomato and chilli jam is also delicious drizzled over purslane.

 

Kemp Minifie’s Purslane and Avocado Tacos with Pico de Gallo  

Purslane has long been considered a weed, but it is increasingly showing up for sale in bunches at farmers markets. Meanwhile, Mexicans have known about its healthful properties for hundreds of years and they eat it both raw and cooked. In Mexico it’s called verdolagas. Cooking mellows its tang and shrinks it, which means you can eat more of it! Paired with avocado and a tomato relish, this is a super-healthy vegetarian snack or main dish.

 

For Pico de Gallo:

600ml (1 pint) grape tomatoes, quartered

50g (2oz) chopped white onion

1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste

2 teaspoons minced fresh Serrano chilli, or to taste

(1oz) chopped coriander

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

 

For Tacos:

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

450g (1 lb) purslane, including tender upper stems, chopped

8 fresh corn tortillas

2 avocados

(3oz) crumbled cotija cheese or to taste

 

coriander sprigs and lime wedges for serving

 

12-inch heavy skillet

 

 

Makes 8 tacos (4 servings)

 

Make Pico de Gallo:

Combine tomatoes, onion, lime juice, chilli, and coriander in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let it stand while assembling the tacos.

 

Cook garlic in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until pale golden. Add purslane with salt to taste and cook, stirring, until wilted and tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a sieve set over a bowl and let it drain.

 

Have a folded kitchen towel ready for the tortillas. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot, then heat a tortilla, keeping the others covered, flipping it occasionally with tongs, until it puffs slightly and gets brown in spots, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer tortilla, as toasted, to towel, enclosing it, and repeat with remaining tortillas. Keep them warm in towel.

 

Quarter avocados lengthwise and remove pit, then peel. Cut each section into thin slices (lengthwise or crosswise, it doesn’t matter) and season with salt.

 

Assemble tacos by spooning some purslane into a folded taco and topping it with avocado slices, cotija cheese, coriander sprigs, and pico de gallo. Serve with lime wedges.

 

 

 

Summer Purslane, Tomato, Cucumber and Sumac Salad

A little sliced red onion is also delicious added to this salad. Omit the sumac if difficult to source.

 

 

Serves 2-4

2 generous fistfuls of purslane sprigs

½ – 1 cucumber, seeded and diced 1.7cm (2/3  inch)

4 ripe tomatoes roughly chopped in a similar size

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

½ – 1 fresh chilli seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon local honey

1 – 2 tablespoons sumac

 

Wash the purslane spring and drain. Put in a wide bowl with the cucumber and tomato dice. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

 

 

Put the chili into a bowl with lemon, extra virgin olive oil and honey.

Whisk with a fork

 

Drizzle over the salad. Toss gently and taste. Sprinkle with sumac and serve.

 

Note: You can imagine how a few slices of avocado are also a yummy addition.

 

 

 

Pickled Purslane

 

Use this tasty pickle in salads or with goat cheese; pan grilled fish, lamb chops or even a burger.

 

Makes 4 x 7oz jars

 

250g (9oz) purslane

200g (7oz) cider white wine vinegar

10g (1/2oz) pure salt

1 teaspoon sugar or a dessertspoon honey

2 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced

1 organic lemon,

600ml (1 pint) water approx.

 

4 sterilised glass jars and lids (160°C/310°F/Mark 3, for ten minutes in the oven)

 

 

Wash the purslane under cold water. Drain.

 

Put the vinegar, salt, sugar or honey and sliced garlic into a stainless steel saucepan

Bring to the boil for a minute or two; add the juice of the lemon.

 

Meanwhile bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the purslane in batches for just 30 seconds. Drain, but save the liquid. Add the purslane to the hot pickle. Spoon into the hot jars, divide the liquid pickle evenly between the jars and top each one up with the purslane blanching water if necessary.

 

Cover and seal the jar immediately with a sterilised lid. Cool and store in a dark place. Use in two days or within 2 months.

 

 

 

 

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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