I have tried Purslane - it was almost twenty years ago, and the taste is still in my memory. To try the crisp, succulent Purslane leaf from your garden veggie bed is rather like eating Swiss Chard although not tough and leafy - it juices rather like cucumber. having a lot of Vitamin C, Purslane tastes sour and almost lemony, but not acrid or bitter.Petersons book on Ontario Wildflowers lists this plant as a wild Portulacea and "Canadian Portulaca".
My sister* moved to the Valley before me and had started an ace Vegetable Garden as well as a series of articles in "The Carleton Place Canadian"(a local newspaper), called "The Amateur Gardener". She perused and researched hundreds of magazines and books, and turned the articles out come hell or high water (she lived by the river) every week. One day she offered me some salad with the crisp garden vegetable, and later she offered me some Purslane plants.
They literally grow as weeds in your bed, and they are not to be snobbed- each plant will give you great nutritional value. I grew the Purslane in my own spread, and I also found out that the plant really conditions and sort of disinfects your garden soil, so it is a welcome addition to any garden.
To recognize the plant is easy. You have probably seen (or, at least sensed) a sprawling, flat , succulent plant in your garden bed. It is usually six to eight inches around, and makes a near-circle of stems which lay flat, having some thirty leaves on each stem. The leaves are miniature versions of Jade Plant leaves,and the stem is slightly russet or roseate over pale green.
Let the little non-descript plants grow, even if you are not going to eat them. They will be good for the soil.
If you find that you like the taste, you can cook them in stir-fries or chop them, fresh, into a salad.
I have written about garden finds several times - I feel that it is quite important to examine the herbs and wildflowers that grow locally in your untrimmed soil.
Why are they there, and how may they improve the quality of your other plants through companion planting? (You often find a dandelion growing with your vegetables, and it is so hard not to pull them out, but if the plant is a good ten inches away, letting it sit with some vegetables will be cleansing and encouraging for some of your plants, like Tomatoes.)
Of course, weeds will take over, being stronger than tender perennials or annuals, but if you separate them and cultivate with concern and also a little ear bent to the needs of your plants, you might find that excellence and strength comes from letting some things be in the garden.
I have never thought of Purslane as anything but a Vitamin C rich vegetable, but I see, from research, that the juice used to be mixed with oil of Roses and applied to the gums if they are sore, or if the teeth are loose and wobbling.
As a hamateur of the highest order, I can assure you that trying this early remedy will probably not hurt, and be a marvel for someone. I was that someone for twenty years as I rediscovered the earth and the witchen woman-power in me! I found that my woes and cares were so often well-healed by my own remedies that I felt more than blessed, and decided eventually to write about it- hence the pages here and the book I am saving some of these pages for. I let the plants tell me some of their properties, and have talked to my plants, even praying and meditating near them. The humble Purslane has not yet caught the eye in that fashion, and I realized that I have thought of it as cleansing for the earth and almost too sensitive to just rip out and eat!
Don't forget this plant if you are the 'lost in the wild' type - besides the rather obscure Canadensis ( a little swamp plant which is cousin to the Orange tree), and Pine, it is a really great source of useful vitamin C, besides being a viable and non-toxic food. This year I might try a little more application, and, of course, try it again in some salad stuff.
A good note to end with- tossing Purlane about in the earth and trimming it or chopping it with a spade into several areas is good for it, since each piece will propagate into another plant where you have scattered it, rather like any sedum.
Purslane Images: Weed Indentification
*Negodaeff, Margaret. Writer, Ottawa, Ontario; major work about: Leonora Annetta Howard (King).
copyright Sue Risk, Northdays Image 2004 - 2015