One person’s weed is another person’s treasured ingredient…Merriam-webster.com defines a ‘weed’ as a “plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth”. By that definition, the purslane that Farmer Steven brought to a customer on Market Day was indeed a weed.
His customer was of Indian descent and her mother uses purslane in many of their native dishes. But she was finding it difficult to find in stores. When Steven asked around among his neighbors, he found a farmer who was more than happy to get rid of some of the purslane that he pulled from his garden rows. It was growing independently and taking over his crop area. So Steven brought a box of it to his new friend.
Purslane is a succulent annual plant that grows even in poor soil, The crisp leaves, which have a slightly sour, salty taste and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and a variety of vitamins, can be cooked and served as a side with fish and poultry, stir-fried with other greens, or chopped and served on salads, soups and other dishes. Its yellow flower buds can be a colorful addition to a salad too. In Indian cuisine, it’s often used in soup or curry or rice or ragi mudde cakes.
Porulaca oleracea, its official botanical name, is also known as little hogweed, pigweed, red root and pursley. It looks a bit like a plant called ‘hairy-stemmed spurge’ with its pinkish stem and small rounded leaves like a jade plant, but hair-stemmed spurge is poisonous, so make sure you’ve got fresh, organic purslane before you try it!