Walk through any vineyard or dry, stony ground in Georgia in summer and look down: you’re like to come across wild purslane. While many consider it to be nothing more than a weed, purslane is a popular food in the countryside and in many cultures dating back to pre-Columbian times. Plus, it’s free!
Portulaca oleracea is a succulent that can grow up to 40 cm/16 inches high but in poor soils it’s more likely to spread out low to the ground in sunny, dry areas. In Georgia it’s called danduri but it’s a popular vegetable throughout the Mediterranean, northern Africa, Asia and Australia.
It’s highly nutritious. Danduri contains more omega-3 fatty acids (and alpha-linolenic acid in particular) than any other leafy vegetable plant. It’s also high in potassium, calcium and vitamin A. To make the most of its tangy flavour, harvest it early in the morning when the leaves have ten times more malic acid than in the afternoon.
Purslane can be eaten raw in salads – very popular in Greece where it’s sold in the markets in huge bunches – or cooked as any other green leafy vegetable, lightly sautéed or blanched. You can also add it to stews and soups.
All parts of the plant are edible but be sure to soak your purslane in plenty of changes of cold water to rid it of any sand that may be clinging to its leaves.