Urban foraging for Purslane
Sunday, 23 January 2011
Wandering through a local park a few days ago I spotted a mass of Purlsane (Portulaca oleracea) growing amongst the flowers.
This cosmopolitan edible plant occurs across Australia (and numerous other countries) and is also cultivated for its tasty and nutritious leaves.
Purslane loves disturbed areas, so you are most likely to see it in your local park, along road verges, in footpath cracks, or even, if you are lucky, popping up in your garden. You may have even been pulling it out and composting it. What a waste!
The leaves and stems of Purslane are edible
They can be cooked as a vegetable (like spinach), added to salads raw, pickled, or can be pounded into a mush and eaten raw (doesn’t sound very tempting).
We enjoyed it on our vege burgers.
Raw, the leaves taste slightly sour and feel rather slimy. The slime is apparently 'great for the mucus membranes, coating the lining of your throat and intestines.' The leaves are also high in Vitamin C and Omega 3 fatty acids and also contain calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and thiamine. It's also high in oxalate, so should be avoided during pregnancy.
You can also collect the seeds and grind them into a flour
I headed back to the park this morning and collected a huge bag of Purslane so that I can harvest some seed.
I'd just read that the tiny black seeds, being high in both protein and fat, are one of the most important bush foods of inland Australia, and decided it would be fun to try making our own seedcakes. Apparently, Aboriginal people ‘pulled up the plants, throwing them in heaps, which after a few days they turn over and an abundant supply of seed is found to have fallen out’. The seed was processed by grinding it on a flat rock with a hand-held stone and the resulting flour was made into a damper or seedcakes.
I collected a huge bag of Purlsane and it's now sitting on a sheet drying out. I'm guessing I might get a few tablespoons of seed if i'm lucky.
Worried about eating the wrong thing?
Purslane is easy to recognise once you know what you are looking for. It’s a small succulent herb with small yellow flowers (5 petals and up to 6 mm wide), thick and flat leaves, and smooth green stems that turn red as they age. It typically grows prostrate or sprawling along the ground, although it can grow taller (up to 20 - 30cm) when protected by surrounding vegetation (like when in a flower bed). To familiarise yourself, check out the description, illustration and photographs here or here.
One plant you might confuse it with if you aren’t careful is Petty Spurge (Euphorbia peplus). You can easily distinguish Petty Spurge by it’s milky sap, seen when you break the stem. This milky sap is toxic so be careful not to confuse the two plants as they will often grow in the same location.
You can find literally hundreds of Purslane recipes online. Here’s a few I’m keen to try.
Cucumber Purslane Yoghurt salad
Chinese-Style Pickled Purslane
Next time you are walking around your neighbourhood keep an eye out for Purslane. Would you be willing to try it?
(Shared at Simple Lives Thursday)