Eating Weeds, Yum, Yum (Really)

The farro salad I’m making also calls for purslane, although arugula is an acceptable substitute if you can’t find purslane. Purslane, I learn, is a succulent ground-crawling plant that I recognize as a weed I used to be constantly pulling up when I had a garden in Sullivan County, NY. It was a tough little sucker, always growing back where I least wanted it. Little did I know that we could have been eating it all along. 

Purslane has a slightly lemony taste and is the best plant source of omega-3 (fish oil is the best known source of this essential fatty acid), as well as vitamins A and C. It’s widely eaten in soups and salads in the Mediterranean. I ask a few farmers at Union Square Greenmarket if they have any and find out it will be available when the weather gets warmer. That’s because it only germinates when the ground reaches at least 60°F—and then it’s pretty much unstoppable.

This edible weed seems to be becoming more available commercially. Last summer, I asked about it at my neighborhood 97th Street Greenmarket. Sure, the manager told me, farmers have purslane all over their fields, but they don’t bring it to market. A couple of weeks later, though, I spotted a tangled mass in a bucket at the Amantai Farm stand and sure enough, it was purslane. I took home what really looked like the pile left over after weeding and wondered which parts, exactly, I should be putting into my salad. I decided to clip off the smaller branchlets of leaves and left the really thick stems. I probably left some of the vitamin C behind but the salad was delicious. Later on, I harvested purslane from the stone patio at my friends’ house in Dutchess County. We’ll see what this summer brings.