Monday, January 18, 2010

Power to Purslane and a Professor

chow ingredients

You know that nasty weed that keeps popping up all over the garden? Well I ate it! Just so you know and in case you find me on the floor foaming at the mouth you'll know what to tell them in the ER.

Let me start at the beginning. I'm not much of a gardener but I do love growing things. A few months ago, I came across some packets of seeds that must have been at least 2 years old. I wasn't at all optimistic about them sprouting but on the off chance that they might, I planted them in some seed flats. After 3 weeks, I was very excited to see that my seeds had sprouted. Wow! I really did not expect it and so many of them too. Hoorah! I diligently watered my sprouts.

As time went by and the first true leaves started to form, I grew suspicious. My tomato seedlings looked the same as my eggplant, which looked a lot like my peppers and so on. Huh? Darn it! They were weeds and they were everywhere. They were in between my flowers, in my pots, in amongst my herbs and even in the cracks of the garden path. Once a month I engaged in the seemingly pointless activity of pulling them out only to have them return - as weeds are want to do - winking at me with little, yellow-flower eyes.

One day I was hanging out on a recipe forum when a woman in France posted a photo of a lovely salad. I blinked twice and stared. The greens on her plate looked a lot like my weeds!

Holy Cow! I had an epiphany. I ran outside and looked at my weeds. Those yellow flowers winked at me but this time I winked back! Then I headed indoors to dream up recipes for their demise.

Three months later I still hadn't tried them. I wasn't brave enough. Two Caribbean plant books contained pen and ink illustrations and botanical descriptions of what looked like my weed. I read long winded descriptions of leaf shape and pattern, something about ovate, ovoid, spatulate leaves blah, blah, blah. There was a lot of 'to-ing and fro-ing' on my part, to the glossary and main text. Eventually I did what any right minded thinking person would do. I called a perfect stranger on a Sunday afternoon and asked. "There is a weed in my yard, can I eat it? "

Professor Julian Kenny is considered an authority on biodiversity in Trinidad and Tobago. He was a lecturer and Head of zoology in the faculties of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. The Professor doesn't know this but I am a HUGE fan. No, I don't know him personally, unless you count the fact that I sporadically read his articles in the newspaper.


I am sure he must have thought I was crazy, ringing him up and possibly disturbing his Sunday siesta to say that I was eating weeds and thinking of feeding them to my family. I was nervous and I am sure barely coherent as I rambled on about doing research for an article.  I also mentioned not wanting to kill my children with a salad that I was making for dinner.

Yes, he knew the plant but was more familiar with a pink variety which grew in sandy soils. To be certain, he advised that I make inquiries at the Herbarium, which is located at the University of the West Indies.  For all I know Professor Kenny may have been rolling his eyes skyward on the the other end but none of this was revealed in normalcy of his tone. He was exceedingly gracious and acted for all the world like it was the most natural thing for a housewife to call him asking if she could eat her front lawn for dinner.

A week later I had my answer, my weed had a name. It was Portulaca oleracea L. better known as Purslane or Pussley. I was also very pleased to learn that it is a highly nutritious vegetable that is currently being touted as a superfood due to it's high Omega 3 content- the highest of any plant.

Sadly, it seems that we have lost knowledge of this lovely vegetable. I wonder if it is still a commonly used ingredient in other Caribbean islands? If you are from the Caribbean and recognize this plant, please leave me some feedback in the comments section. I would love to know what it is called on your island and how you use it.


Here is a purslane salad I made some months ago.  I am submitting this to the Weekend Herb Blogging Event hosted by Anna's Cool Finds. The good news is that no one ended up in the hospital  - not even a tummy ache:-)  Purslane tastes a lot like watercress but not as pungent. We all really enjoyed it and  I  plan to use it in a number of different ways from now on.



  1. your blog is looking lovely Wiz.I never saw this in my life but I would like to get some to plant since it is a superfood. I enjoyed reading this.I am not clear abt the column you are speaking about. This is u having your own column? PM me and give me the deets please I am dying to find out.

  2. In French we call it Pourpier and it is a really nice add on to any elaborate green salad mix these days. I personally love it! I'd love to grow some in my garden (well, balcony!). Enjoy as much as you can!!!

  3. yay for bravery. i think i'd chicken out...unless I had company :-) heck some spinaches grow as weeds, but bravo again for trying the weeds! at least you grew something productive. I am still staring at an empty yard.

  4. Oh my, I had a good laugh on this! But good on you. You finally ate them! haha.... It's totally out of expectation huh!

  5. Great story! That's what I love about your blog - there is always a story to go with the food!

  6. Tay-No column but writing this gave me an idea for an article which is supposed to be published this month in a local health magazine.

    Gaelle - thanks for the comment. I have noticed that European chefs like to use it in a mesclun salad mix.

    Chennette-Yuh done know ah eying down dem wild spinach you mentioned.

    My little Space- Glad you enjoyed the read.

    Dee-Not always. But now that I have an outlet, the DH loves that he doesn't have to listen to me go on about stuff like this anymore!

  7. I am digging this post...i have never seen this plant/weed but i admire ur bravery. I certainly would have just tried to keep killing the damn things and moved right on...

  8. I've heard of purslane before but never ate it! I would of been wary too - we grew assorted lettuces and some of them looked like weeds. I wouldn't eat them. I'm glad all turned out well!

  9. Very interesting and I admire how brave you are as well :) I've been to China Town recently and have seen many new to me plants, but only get some new bean thread noodles... made them with coconut peanut sauce, will post about it tonight.

    Have a great day Wizzy! :)

  10. I LOVE you Wizzy. You are a woman after my heart!!!!! The lengths you went to.....remarkable. Mwah

  11. What a lovely blog you have - so glad I found you!

  12. What a great story, I love how you conquered the weed and came out so much better for it!

  13. Very cool post - am happy to see it in Sunday's WHB round up! Anna

  14. What a great story and I love the fact that you got revenge on the weed. The salad looks delicious.

  15. Very good research indeed! I'm sure the family is happy to be alive. The salad looks pretty too but I'm not a fan of watercress :(

  16. lol thank God it was a good weed, imagine if you had the other kind growing ... :)) you could make hash brownies or simply smoke it ... lol

  17. Wow it's great you finally found out what kind of weed it was, and kudos to you, in that even the 'waste' part of gardening turns out to be a superfood :)

  18. This green is known as "Portulak" (like its latin name) in Germany. However it is only grown by some people and it normally never hits the shelves of a grocery store. I grew it some years ago and quite liked it.

    Nice photos!