I have lots of wonderful wild purslane growing in my garden, and apart from adding it to salads, it is extremely useful in keeping the weeds down! Although purslane is rarely seen on our own tables today, this pretty herb has a long and interesting history. English medieval cooks and gardeners loved purslane; in fact, it is often known as the “Elizabethan Salad Herb” in the UK, as it was extremely popular as a form of greenery during that era. I absolutely love it in salads and remember eating it in Cyprus when I lived there – my Turkish Cypriot friends picked it from wasteland where the local Turkish word is Semizotu. It is thought that the genus name, Portulaca, is from the Latin porto and laca meaning ‘milk carrier’ in reference to its milky sap. The species name oleracea is Latin and means ‘potherb’. Native to Persia and India, it was introduced into Europe by Arabs in the 15th century as a salad herb. Purslane makes an excellent edible ground cover and in many countries, it is cultivated as a vegetable, though many unknowingly consider it a weed. It was once believed to offer protection from evil spirits. Purslane is very nutritious and is rich in Vitamin C and alpha linolenic acid (one of the Omega-3 fatty acids).which the body converts into the essential fatty acids known as EPA: almost 3 percent of purslane by weight consists of alpha-, beta-, and gamma-carotene and lutein. Not only is it easy to grow purslane in your home garden, it is hard to keep it from overrunning other plants. When the plants are young, they make a tart but succulent addition to salads with just a little washing and dicing. After the plants are mature, they are best parboiled in salted water for 1-2 minutes before adding them to salads. In New Mexican cuisine, purslane is known as verdolagas, and is commonly fried with onions, added to pinto beans, or used as a herb in potato salads.
- Make the dressing by mixing the lemon juice, olive oil and salt together - I put mine in a jam jar and shake it up! Adjust seasonings to personal taste.
- Thoroughly rinse the purslane and remove the small fleshy leaves in clusters (the stems are easily broken with your finger and thumbnail). Rinse the purslane and pat dry. Add the diced onion and tomato and with your hands mix everything together. (Remove any roots that may still be attached.).
- Add the dressing and again, mix well - so that all the leaves are coated, as well as the diced onions and tomatoes.
- Serve alongside grilled meat and fish, cheese and charcuterie or just as a light salad with rustic bread.