Purslane is a weed. It is drought tolerant, heat tolerant and quite prolific. Yet, if you have it in your yard, it is probably the most nutritious thing growing in your garden.
Purslane has seven times more betacarotene than carrots as well as 14 times more omega-3 fatty acids and six times the vitamin E of spinach. Some researchers claim that it actually has more omega-3s than some fish oils. It is also high in iron, magnesium, manganese, potasium, calcium and copper. Traditional Chinese medicine has long used it to help with many gastrointestinal disorders.
I have never planted purlane yet it is growing all over my garden. I let it grow between rows of crops or where vegetables didn't germinate well. It grows fast so it gives me something to put on my plate well before any carrots or beets are ready. I add it to smoothies, toss it in salads, or steam it for 4 or 5 minutes and serve it with butter and salt. Delicious!
I also like to add it to my bone broth soup. I discovered more than 30 years ago (and I honestly can't remember how I did) that if my husband, Bob, and I have at least two servings of my homemade soup a week, we have no problems with our joints. If I forget, my knees really bother me.
One thing that I like to do with my soup is give it as many goodies as I can so that it will be packed with vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals are water-soluble, so they leave whatever bones or vegetables that you put into the pot and transfer into the soup. I always add beets, carrots, leafy greens and a small piece of good-quality liver (from an animal that was pastured and raised humanely on a small farm).
So in the summer, I throw in some purslane. This year, I decided to put some in the freezer for the winter soups.
I pulled up a bunch of purslane cutting off the root and throwing it in a large pan. This I washed repeatedly with a hose — this particular plant comes quite dirty. Bringing it inside, I washed each piece individually and cut the stems from the central piece that was attached to the root.
These I placed in the top of my steamer.
The center piece I put aside to feed to the chickens (they could be composted).
I steamed them until they wilted, turning repeatedly with tongs. This takes only a couple of minutes at most.
I then placed the purslane in a small bowl that was in a larger bowl of ice water. Remember the water-soluble aspect of vitamins and minerals? If I just placed the purslane in the ice water, the wonderful nutrients that I am seeking would be washed away.
Again turning periodically with the tongs, I wait until all of it has cooled down. It's never wise to put something hot into a plastic container as some undesirable bits could leach into the food.
Once cooled, I put the purslane into bags and spread it out so that it will lie flat. Marking the package with the contents and date, into the freezer it goes.
If I do this several times a summer, I will have the wonderful nutrients available in this delightful weed to add to my soups all year long.
Celeste Longacre and her husband, Bob, have lived sustainably for more than 35 years. They grow almost all of their vegetables for the year and preserve them by freezing, canning, drying and using a home -built root cellar. Celeste ferments much of the couple’s produce and makes her own sauerkraut, kimchee, and fruit and beet kvass. She is the author of Celeste’s Garden Delights and writes a gardening blog for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For more information, visit Celeste’s website, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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