Most of us think of weeds as eyesores in our gardens. They spread quickly, stealing nutrients from our more favorable flowers and vegetable plants. I used to think weeds were completely useless and undesirable, until I discovered purslane, a succulent that is not a mere weed, but a tasty treat. Wandering through my friend's garden, I saw what looked like everyday weeds. With purple-hued stems and five small, rounded leaves on the end of each stem, purslane is very distinct in fields and gardens. For more information on purslane, click here.
A prevalent weed in North America but native to India
, purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy green vegetable. It is also high in vitamin A and potassium. I tasted a small leaf, and it reminded me of spinach and okra. The stems are also delicious; there is a salty and sour taste, and is surprisingly not bitter. So the next time you're outside weeding, keep your eyes peeled for the distinctive shape and size of purslane. You will not only be impressed by the nutritional value, but also impressed by the taste of this so-called weed!
However, beware of spurge, a wiry-stemmed wild plant that sometimes grows near purslane. Unlike purslane, spurge is poisonous and secretes a milky substance when the stem is broken.
Purslane, shown here, has very distinct leaves and a dark stem.
This is spurge, a poisonous weed. Be on the lookout for it if you're gathering purslane.