Mexican Purslane Stuffing

Q. I have a terrible weed problem in my garden that I hope you can help me with. For several years I have had a weed which is a low and semi-succulent annual, whose stems spread mat-like over the ground, sprouting sprigs of fleshy little leaves and tiny yellow flowers. These pesky plants are even popping up in my flower bed and the more I chop the more plants there seem to be! How can I get rid of these pests?

A. Why would you want to eliminate the first "vegetable" which is ready to harvest in everyone's garden? You are describing purslane. Purslane is also the heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant flower which is sometimes referred to as the Dolly Parton flower because it blooms from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The smaller blooming "weedy" cousin of the cultivated Dolly Parton flower as well as Dolly herself have suddenly become the belles of the garden among creative chefs and nutritionists. Although purslane has proliferated as a wild edible around the world for centuries, in its renaissance purslane is acclaimed for not one, but two starring attractions: the rediscovery of its cooking possibilities--its tinker-toy eye appeal, crisp texture and lightly tangy taste--and the scientific discovery of its potentially healthful omega-3 fatty acids. If this weren't enough, it has above average values of Vitamins A and C and provides all of these goodies with only 15 calories in a 100-gram portion (as compared with 76 in a boiled potato).

Purslane is eaten extensively in soups and salads throughout the Mediterranean area, where the incidence of heart disease is low. The Russians dry and can it for the winter. In Mexico it is called VERDOLAGA and is a favorite comfort food, eaten in an omelet or as a side dish, rolled in tortillas, or dropped by handfuls into soups and stews.

The exciting new health discovery is purslane's high content of alpha linolenic acid, a type of the omega-3 fatty acids. It may affect human health directly, but the most intriguing possibility is that the human body might be able to convert into other, related kinds of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) found in fish oils. Researchers see evidence that these substances lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as make the blood less likely to form clots. But ages before this scientific finding, purslane was eaten as treatment for arthritis, inflammation and heart disease and to promote general good health.

If you need recipes:


This is a home-type dish that is as simple to prepare as "scrambled eggs with..." but much more nutritious. Serve as a side dish, a brunch main dish or as a filling in tortillas and pitas.

1 to 1 pounds fresh purslane
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 medium-size ripe tomato, chopped (not skinned)
1 SERRANO or jalapeno chile, finely chopped, or freshly cracked black pepper, according to taste
2 to 3 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 egg beaten
1. Set aside a few raw springs of purslane for garnish. Steam or blanch the rest until tender-crisp (three to five minutes). Drain thoroughly, transfer to a plate covered with several layers of paper towels and blot dry.

2. In a large pan, saute garlic and onion in vegetable oil until soft. Add tomato and chile, and saute until the mixture becomes sauce-like. Season with soy sauce. (If you arenšt using the chile, add freshly ground black pepper.) Saute until mixture is warm and the flavors marry.

3. When ready to serve, add the beaten egg to the warm mixture in the pan and mix gently. The egg will bind the mixture loosely but should not harden into scrambled eggs. Garnish plate servings with reserved sprigs.

YIELD: 4 servings

PER SERVING (estimated): 91 calories, 4 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 68 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 68 percent U.S. RDA Vitamin A, 77 percent U.S. RDA Vitamin C.

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