Scavenge for a healthier salad
One little weed could add a powerful nutrient punch to your dinner table and it may be growing in your backyard!
This plant is super easy to grow
For the summer of 2017, I was working with a sustainable tourism company called Rustic Pathways in the Dominican Republic. During that time, every week we got to work on a permaculture farm for half a day. Surprisingly, I hadn’t heard much about permaculture before I got there. Orchidia and Antü, the couple who started the farm were sure to educate me about the wonders of permaculture, but I’ll save that for another post. They educated me about how their local kin has lost the ability to live off the land and taught me about how so much traditional knowledge has been lost to modernization. They were appalled by the idea that their island is importing food when there are native, almost always healthier, foods rotting on the ground right under their feet. Foods they told me the locals didn’t even know are edible! Each half-day we worked there throughout the summer had a similar format, but each time I learned something new. As the information presented would naturally change slightly every time we heard it. These people were so educated on their surroundings, there was no plant in sight that they could not identify and give me some fun fact and use for. I want to share one of the most interesting tidbits of information I picked out of the demos they gave us.
My fun fact is that there is a plant that is loaded with potassium, magnesium, calcium and is a great source of plant based omega-3’s. In fact, it has been found to be the vegetable source with the highest alpha-linolenic acid content an essential omega-3 fatty acid1, one study found it to contain up to five times the amount of omega-3’s as spinach2. This plant is super easy to grow, so easy to grow that is it considered a weed and often pulled. I’m sure with a keen eye you could find this little trooper all over. You probably have some growing around your neighborhood. I’ve found it in planter boxes, grass patches, even sidewalk cracks! This miracle plant is called Portulaca oleracea, commonly known as Purslane. On the farm Orchidia told me all the benefits of this plant then told me it’s disregarded as a weed, and that people all over are pulling it out of the ground to let it shrivel on sidewalks and compost piles. So sad! Why am I spending so much money on kale when this little weed that grows in sidewalk cracks is free? Why is no one talking about this awesome durable plant that will grow everywhere without any maintenance?
Photo credit: Isidre Blanc
Taste wise it is nothing too exciting but I really like the texture. It is a succulent so it has a satisfying smash to it. There’s not much to it. I’ve used it as a garnish in salads and have had very satisfied houseguests. I love finding out about useable things that are right under my nose. I know there are a lot of “weeds” out there that could be so much more than just weeds. So shout out to Quisqueya Permacultura for opening my mind into the wonderful world of practical sustainability! I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to work and learn with you guys. Muah!
Here’s a link to their facebook if you’d like to see what amazing work they are up to: https://www.facebook.com/QuisqueyaPermacultura/
1. Simopoulos AP, Salem N., Jr. Purslane: a terrestrial source of omega-3 fatty acids. The New England Journal of Medicine. 1986;315(13):p. 833. [PubMed]
2. Uddin MK, Juraimi AS, Hossain MS, Nahar MA, Ali ME, Rahman MM. Purslane weed (Portulaca oleracea): A prospective plant source of nutrition, omega-3 fatty acid, and antioxidant attributes. ScientificWorldJournal. 2014;2014:951019. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
Here are a couple of good recipes if you’re looking for a fun way to introduce this cute little plant into your diet:
For an actual salad:
You can put it in any recipe that calls for cooked greens, here’s one specifically using purslane:
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