photo credit: Melissa Schneider
PURSLANE (Portulaca oleracea)
A well known hardy weed which manages to thrive nearly all over the world. To some gardeners, this botanical is a nuisance, sucking all the nutrients from the soil, so you may be surprised to hear that Purslane is a good natural source of food enjoyed for thousands of years? It was largely consumed in prehistoric times, particularly in East Mediterranean countries.
“…Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid than any other leafy vegetable plant. Research published by Artemis P. Simopoulos states that Purslane has 0.01 mg/g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This is an extraordinary amount of EPA for a land-based vegetable source. EPA is an Omega-3 fatty acid found mostly in fish, some algae, and flax seeds.It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin A, vitamin C, and some vitamin B and carotenoids, as well as dietary minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron. Also present are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, the reddish betacyanins (visible in the coloration of the stems) and the yellow betaxanthins (noticeable in the flowers and in the slight yellowish cast of the leaves). Both of these pigment types are potent antioxidants and have been found to have antimutagenic properties in laboratory studies. 100 Grams of fresh purslane leaves (about 1 cup) contain 300 to 400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid. One cup of cooked leaves contains 90 mg of calcium, 561 mg of potassium, and more than 2,000 IUs of vitamin A. A half-cup of purslane leaves contains as much as 910 mg of oxalate, a compound implicated in the formation of kidney stones, however, note that many common vegetables, such as spinach, also can contain high concentrations of oxalates. When stressed by low availability of water, purslane, which has evolved in hot and dry environments, switches to photosynthesis using Crassulacean acid metabolism(the CAM pathway): At night its leaves trap carbon dioxide, which is converted into malic acid (the souring principle of apples), and, in the day, the malic acid is converted into glucose. When harvested in the early morning, the leaves have ten times the malic acid content as when harvested in the late afternoon, and thus have a significantly more tangy taste…” - via wikipedia-
You can forage for Purslane in the wild, in your own garden or perhaps a neighbour would be only too glad to have you come over and harvest as much as you need. It also flourishes in hedgerows and at the side of the road but I would caution from foraging at these locations because of contamination, pesticides and herbicides.
GARLIC SCAPES (Allium sativum)
Garlic Scapes are the green leafy stems which grow out of the garlic bulb. They are tangy and flavourful and add a nice “bite” to recipes, although sometimes they can be a little bitter. As they grow, they curl around each other in a sort of spiral. They are most tender when they first start to shoot up, as they get longer they become woodier. So best to harvest them sooner rather than later. Garlic Scapes are a fleeting vegetable but well worth the wait!
2 cups purslane, roughy chopped
1 cup garlic scapes, roughly chopped
1 cup walnuts
1/2 white onion sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh thyme leaves (use lemon thyme if you have it)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1. Wash the Purslane thoroughly, especially if it has been wild crafted. Avoid using the larger stems as these are tough and woody. Smaller, younger stems may be used. If in doubt, just use the leaves. Wash the fresh thyme leaves
2. In a medium sized pan, saute the onions and the scapes in a little olive oil until tender. (You can make a raw version by eliminating this step. The final flavour will be different, and the pungency of the scapes will be stronger)
3. Lightly toast the walnuts by tossing them into a pan on a medium to high heat. (Avoid this step if making a raw version)
4. Into a blender add the purslane, sauteed onions and scapes, walnuts, thyme, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Blend well, until a creamy consistency is achieved.
Mix it in gluten free rice pasta, millet and quinoa. Spread on flax seed crackers…. It goes with everything! Your Purslane pesto will keep well in the fridge or you can freeze it in small freezer bags but for more convenience, use an ice cube tray.