August is often one of the favorite, and thus most crowded, months at the farmers markets. Tables are bowing under the weight of mountains of stone fruits, tomatoes, and corn; from one end to the other, you can sample a complete rainbow of yellow to deep purple. Today we're going to focus on the green: purslane, to be specific. It's an active and opportunistic weed here in California, and you may have recently pulled some out of your landscaping. Turns out the farmers are doing that too. But as it's also good and healthy eating, and more and more people are turning the pesky weed into a different type of green.
Purslane's exact origins are a little clouded by the passage of time. It's been around for centuries, and is generally thought to be from northern Africa. The fleshy and succulent stems and leathery skin-like leaves allow purslane to thrive in dryer desert soils and Mediterranean climates. It also reproduces incredibly fast: small sections of broken stems left on the ground can reroot themselves to the soil and take off. Which is fine if it's confined to a pot on the porch, less so when allowed to take over a whole hillside or farm field, which it has been known to do here in California.
Thankfully, purslane is full of flavor and very distinctive. It has a bright lemony sourness and a slight pleasant crunch. You're more likely to see it in a salad among lighter and more feathery greens. But purslane can also do well on its own or with other complimentary flavors, like a nutty couscous or a creamy risotto (it cooks almost exactly like spinach), or raw with sweet summer tomatoes. And as a bonus, it's also incredibly good for you, very high in Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and C: the highest of any green leaf vegetable. Our heavy rainy season likely benefited the plant, and where once it was a more rare market find, it's now readily available.