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Purslane: Edible, and So Much More

Purslane: Culinary Delight of Edible Landscaping

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Edible landscaping - purslane

Edible landscaping: purslane for your salad.

David Beaulieu

The present feature lauds the view of purslane that is now gaining in popularity, namely, that it represents edible landscaping at its best: it's free, and there's no work involved in growing it. The only thing keeping this herb from its rightful place in edible landscaping is an outdated logic that says, "This plant is a weed; therefore, it must be eradicated from my landscape!"

When you taste the "weed," purslane in cooking recipes, and familiarize yourself with the research concerning its nutritional benefits, you might re-think that logic. Instead of fighting it as a weed, you may begin to find it eminently logical to treat it as an herb of edible landscaping.

Purslane herb has turned some heads at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, no less, reports Usha Palaniswamy, Department of Plant Science, University of Connecticut. "Purslane is receiving much attention for cultivation by the United States Department of Agriculture as part of their effort to bring about a modification in the western diet with increased intake of fresh fruits and vegetables."

Purslane just happens to contain alpha-linolenic acid, one of the highly sought-after Omega-3 fatty acids. Why pay money for fish oil when you can grow your own Omega-3 fatty acids as part of your edible landscaping? Especially when it takes little effort to grow purslane, since it does grow like a weed.

No, purslane (Portulaca olearacea) isn't yet another of those leafy "rabbit-foods" that only a Ewell Gibbons could love. Purslane is more than merely edible landscaping -- it is a culinary delight! In fact, it is a succulent herb. Keep that word in mind. For "succulent" provides a hint both to the weed's identification and the potential of this edible landscaping component for cooking recipes.

Purslane's stem is round and smooth, and it trails along the ground like a small vine. Young plants have a green stem, but, with maturity, stems take on reddish tints. Purslane has small, oblong, green leaves, which form clusters. The leaves resemble small wedges and, like the stem, are juicy. Has that description of purslane whetted your taste buds yet for purslane cooking recipes?

Edible Landscaping Harvest: Picking and Using Purslane

In order to preserve purslane's juiciness for eating, harvest this delight of your edible landscaping in the morning or evening, when you won't have to compete with intense sunlight. Purslane can either be used raw in salads or sauteed as a side dish. In addition to the crispy texture you would expect from a succulent, purslane also has an interesting peppery flavor.

Star chef Steve Johnson has a purslane cooking recipe for cucumber-yogurt salad (you can view his recipe for purslane at the Star Chefs Web site). Although you won't find it at the salad bar of your local fast-food stop any time soon, purslane has made it onto the menu of a number of upscale restaurants.

But there's more to the eating of the herb, purslane than its use in gourmet recipes. Its benefits extend to nutrition. Okay, so you knew that was coming. After all, what article about eating weeds doesn't eventually get around to how nutritious they are? But did you know exactly how it is good for you?

Not only does purslane have five times the amount of Omega-3 fatty acid that spinach has, but it also has stems high in vitamin C. Omega-3 fatty acids are instrumental in regulating our metabolism. Purslane also contains alpha-linolenic acid (source: HealthGuidance).

Now if you strive for a landscape with an immaculate lawn, it will still be understandable if you pull up all the purslane growing on it. That's the price you have to pay for perfection. But just don't throw it away! Eat it instead! Join the many who now treat purslane as edible landscaping. And if your purslane is growing on the edge of a garden, say, you might even consider pinching it instead of pulling it. That way, all summer you can enjoy healthful eating with this spicy succulent of edible landscaping.

Getting Rid of Purslane, If You Must

Not convinced of the virtues of purslane? If you must get rid of purslane, you can, of course, hand-pull it. Hand-pulling is easiest when the soil is wet. You can also use the pre-emergent herbicide, Dimension, if you're not committed to staying organic. Purslane germinates when soil temperatures reach about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so you'll have to apply the pre-emergent herbicide by at least mid-spring (check with your local county extension).

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