Eat Like a Roman

Purslane

I have debated whether or not to publish this blog for weeks and finally as summer days wane and the weeds die back I have decided to share with you my simple recipe for a ubiquitous weed that grows in my garden, purslane.

The reason for my reluctance is really something I brought upon myself with my own lack of regard for being sensible.  You see, I made this dish one night when I was home alone, ate too much and let’s just say paid the price. The good news for you, the reader, is I can provide the recipe with an added caution: Eat only small amounts until you know your tolerance for such a vegetable.

A brief explanation of purslane for the uninitiated. Purslane has the appearance of a low spreading succulent in your garden. It spreads from a center stem and has small but fat oval shaped green leaves. Historians reported that the Romans ate purslane, so it is not a new found invasive species that has just now been taking over our gardens. In fact, some people plant purslane and in some cultures they revere it, putting it in damn near everything they eat.

You see, it is full of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta carotene and has a high protein content. Most remarkably it is probably one of the best vegetable sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. That is a lot of nutrition packed in to one garden plant that is considered a pesky weed.

I was introduced to Purslane 30 some years ago. My well-read father and I were outside walking around the farm where they lived at the time. We were talking, as we often did, probably about affairs of the world. Or more likely we were just talking to the two devoted collies that protected our farm from pesky vermin, Flicka and Gus (Augustus). Anyway, in the midst of conversing, my dad paused, bent over and picked this green “weed” from the driveway. He proceeded to wipe it off and pop it in his mouth.

I must have looked nonplussed because with a certain wonderment in his voice he proceeded to explain this thing he had just picked from our driveway and was now eating  “Just imagine Kris the Romans ate purslane. It was growing at the time of the Romans and here I am picking and eating the same vegetable.” Dad loved his history and the history of that green plant really stimulated his imagination, I could see it on his face.

For me the history was just that, history, and I was not so impressed. I mean after all the Romans also were purported to have gorged themselves until they vomited and to have lined their water pipes with lead. No, the history of purslane was of little consequence. I was impressed by being able to eat something that was growing wild in the middle of the driveway. I was so impressed I was blessedly quiet and respectful that day as my father told me the story of the Romans and purslane.

Today, as I weeded what must be the third or fourth bushel of purslane from my garden I could yet again hear my father’s voice and the memories came flooding back. You know what struck me, I am sure it won’t surprise you, it was remembering the history of this common garden weed.

Simple Sauteed Purslane

  • One quart container of purslane, washed, dried and stems removed
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Rice Bran Oil (one of the best for high heat cooking)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Real salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat your oil in a saute pan until nice and hot. Drop the purslane in the pan and saute lightly for 5 minutes or less. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper and add the freshly minced garlic while hot but no longer over the heat source*(see below). Serve.

*By not heating your garlic but adding when the cooking has ended you obtain all the nutrients from your minced garlic and lose nothing.

It really couldn’t be simpler but if you want other recipes I thought these looked interesting and even Epicurious.com  provided some food for thought. Whatever you choose, just try it, you’ll like it but will you do me a little favor? While you taste this tantalizingly tart and succulent little vegetable, think of my dad and his story of the Romans. Dad died over a decade ago after a long and amazing life but my times with him are as if we walked that driveway yesterday. The example he set for me, the stories he told, have all helped make my life ever so rewarding and I am forever grateful.

Until next weed,

Kris

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2 responses to this post.

  1. The Greeks were mentioned as one culture who use a lot of purslane and then quite a few Eastern European countries use it in stews and soups. Interesting that most Americans seem reluctant to eat it but that is why I thought I would share its name, appearance and its uses. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Reply

  2. My Greek grandmother used to put purslane in salads. This idea was lost on my own mother who says “I’m not eating weeds!” My youngest daughter and I snack on it all of the time when we are out in the garden. I think it is also an excellent feed for chickens.

    Reply

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