First, what did we find in Jerusalem?
Trees: Pine, fig, carob, olive, sumac, dwarf pomegranate, Judas tree/redbud, thorny Hawthorne, yucca
Bushes: capers, wild carrot/Queen Anne's lace (bird's nest), myrtle, rosemary, lavender, wild fennel, black mustard, wild oats, Roses
Low-lying Weeds: plantain (plantago lagopus), mallow, clover, purslane, prickly asparagus. prickly lettuce
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
Also known as: Cat's tongue, pourpier, ma chi xian - horse tooth amaranth, verdolaga, pigweed, little hogweed, pusley, pussly, perpine, munyeroo, portulaca, garden purslain, rigla, or רגלת הגינה
Where to find it: Purslane is everywhere! In the city, in the forest... Maya commented on my Facebook Page that she used to collect purslane at her family's farm in North-West Pennsylvania. And here in central Israel, where it has been a very hot dry summer, it's still green.
How to pick: Look for bright green, thick, paddle-shaped, waxy leaves (like a jade plant), on knobby, fleshy green (or red, pink, or brown) stems, and tiny yellow flowers. Purslane generally hugs the ground and grows in a sprawling spider or web-like shape. The biggest leaves and the thinner stems are best for eating. It can be gathered without any tools, since it lacks thorns or a woody stem.
Poisonous look-alike: At some stages, purslane might be confused with poisonous spurge.
Purslane has a thicker, fleshy leaf you can dig your fingernail into. The sap should be clear. Spruge has a milky sap. So, if you think you found purslane, just dig your fingernail into the leaf. If the leaf is thin or has milky sap, walk away. If it has a healthy crunch and clear juices, eat it up!
Raw: Purslane is has a very mild green, slightly lemony and salty flavor. It tastes tangier when picked in the morning.* You can't go wrong preparing raw purslane. Wash it, dress it. I bet you could even put in in shakes. See recipe links at the end of this post.
Cooked: It can be cooked like you might cook green beans, asparagus, or chard, or used in soup.
Medicinal: Purslane can be eaten, juiced, or made into a tea or tincture. A topical poultice can be applied to boils, sours, bites, stings, and burns. It helps regulate metabolism, digestion, and breathing. It is incredibly high in Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Purslane may be contraindicated for pregnant women, however it is good for post-partum bleeding. (See links below.)
How to make it grow: Purslane has tiny black seeds smaller than poppy seeds. They are found in clusters inside teeny tiny translucent tear-drop-shaped pouches where the leaves of the young plants meet the stem. After you have foraged pruslane, wash the plants vigorously in water. Pour the water with the miniscule seeds wherever you want purslane to grow. Then eat the leaves.
- Israeli Kitchen: How to eat Purslane
- Almost Turkish Recipes: Purslane Salad with Yogurt
- Penniless Parenting: Dijon Purslane or String Beans Recipe
- Miriam Kresh on Green Prophet: Scrambled Eggs with Purslane and Feta Cheese
- Cafe Liz: Purslane Bulgur Salad and Summer pasta with purslane and sfatit cheese
*From Wikipedia: 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.
Email Ronit for more information about her year-round classes on foraging for wild edibles. Learn what to look for and how to use it. There's a new lesson every season!
- Stinging Nettle Soup - Picking Edible Weeds
- Barley Casserole with Mallows, Tomato, & Basil
- Penniless Parenting's post on foraging responsibly
Below are some of my pictures from our walk.