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Purslane: Is It a Weed or a Treat?

by Chad Borseth, NS/S Assistant Retail Manager, Published August 19, 2015.

With the monsoon rains rolling across the Sonoran desert, the weeds are growing like, well, weeds. But not all are unwanted guests that suddenly occupy your garden. I personally like to consider them "no effort" annual food crops. They are abundant and resilient plants, and some of them, like Purslane, are edible treats.

Common Purslane or simply Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is one of the most common wild monsoon greens. This should not be confused with another similar plant called Horse Purslane (Trianthema portulacastrum) which, while edible, is much less palatable and may irritate the throat. These two often grow side by side in places where the earth has been disturbed. If you are not lucky enough to have Purslane grow wild near you, Native Seeds/SEARCH sells Golden Purslane; a cultivated variety that is great for eating.

Purslane

Purslane is an annual succulent made up of petite green teardrop-shaped or spatulate leaves that grow on dark red stems. The leaves are smooth and shiny, and can vary in size from one half to two inches in length. The stems can be up to twelve inches in length and tend to grow in a sprawling fashion creating mat-like patches of Verdolagas wherever it’s planted. The fresh leaves contain surprisingly more omega-3 fatty acids (a-linolenic acid) than any other leafy vegetable plant. It is an excellent source of Vitamin A, also among the highest in leafy greens. Purslane is also a rich source of vitamin C and some B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and carotenoids, as well as dietary minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese.

Purslane can be eaten raw cooked or even pickled like relish. Leaves that are picked in the morning seems to have a more tart flavor than those harvested mid day or evening. Purslane can be found in markets and cuisine all over the world. Here in the Sonoran desert, they are often called Verdolagas. Verdolagas are frequently served as a side with meats or mixed with eggs. Here is my recipe for a delicious omelet that includes Verdolagas and Amaranth greens. Both are fantastic summertime greens that have been deemed as weeds by many.

Sonoran Wild Green Omelet 1
Sonoran Wild Green Omelet 2

Sonoran Wild Green Omelet

Ingredients:
½ C. White or yellow onion (diced)
½ C. Anaheim or Poblano chile (Jalapeño if you like it spicy)
½ - ¾ C. Purslane (leaves and tender stems)
½ C. Amaranth greens
½ C. Shredded Cheddar or longhorn cheese
4 eggs
2-3 tbs of your favorite cooking oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Sautee onion and chile in oil until the onions are translucent. Then add Purslane and amaranth greens. You may want to remove from heat or turn the heat down as the greens wilt very quickly. Once your greens have wilted and have been mixed with onion and chile, set aside as filler for the omelet. Once again add oil to your pan and return to heat.

While your pan is heating, crack and scramble your eggs. Add to your hot pan and season with salt and pepper. I like to add half my cheese while the egg is still runny. After seasoning to taste, add your greens and chile mixture to the center. Fold over and cook until done to your satisfaction. I reserve half of my cheese to go on top, and enjoy this dish with a bit of Crema Mexicana or sour cream on the side.

Securing the Future of Food

Securing the Future of Food

Crop diversity is key to achieving sustainable food security both globally and within our own region of focus, the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. Our approach to food security focuses on seed security, which relies on the conservation and sharing of appropriate crop diversity and the knowledge to use that diversity effectively. Our programs are designed to address these goals and broadly entail:

  • Seed banking to ensure the survival of unique agricultural biodiversity and to document its traits.
  • Seed distribution so that these crops continue to contribute to the region's food systems.
  • Support for on-farm maintenance of dynamically-evolving crop varieties.
  • Research into low-input and climate-appropriate agricultural practices.
  • Education in managing local crop diversity and contributing to regional efforts.
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Many Ways to Get Connected with Seeds

Many Ways to Get Seeds

Agricultural biodiversity is most valuable when it is actively used to strengthen local food and farming systems. With this in mind, Native Seeds/SEARCH strives to provide affordable public access to seeds of regionally-appropriate crop varieties. We have programs designed to meet the needs of many types of individuals and organizations.

    • ADAPTS: An online platform for exploring the contents of the NS/S seed bank collection. If you want to conduct a detailed search for appropriate crop varieties, start here. Otherwise, you may explore currently available seed varieties through our online store.
    • Native American Seed Request: Provides a limited number of seed packets at zero or reduced cost to Native American individuals.
    • Seed Library: If you are in Tucson, Arizona, we encourage you to visit our seed library.
    • Retail Sales: If you are looking for seeds for personal use and are ineligible for seeds through our other programs, you may purchase seeds online or at our retail store in Tucson, Arizona. Some varieties are in limited supply and are restricted to NS/S members and Free Seed recipients.
    • ADAPTS: An online platform for exploring the contents of the NS/S seed bank collection. If you want to conduct a detailed search for appropriate crop varieties, start here. Otherwise, you may explore currently available seed varieties through our online store.
    • Native American Seed Request: Provides a limited number of seed packets at zero or reduced cost to Native American individuals.
    • Bulk Seed Exchange: Makes bulk seed quantities available to farmers in exchange for a return of seeds after a successful harvest.
    • Retail Sales: If you are looking for seeds for personal use and are ineligible for seeds through our other programs, you may purchase seeds online or at our retail store in Tucson, Arizona. Some varieties are in limited supply and are restricted to NS/S members and Free Seed recipients.
    • ADAPTS: An online platform for exploring the contents of the NS/S seed bank collection. If you want to conduct a detailed search for appropriate crop varieties, start here. Otherwise, you may explore currently available seed varieties through our online store.
    • Community Seed Grants: Free seeds for organizations (including schools) that are working to promote nutrition, food security, education, agricultural sustainability, and/or community resilience.
    • Retail Sales: If you are looking for seeds for personal use and are ineligible for seeds through our other programs, you may purchase seeds online or at our retail store in Tucson, Arizona. Some varieties are in limited supply and are restricted to NS/S members and Free Seed recipients.
    • ADAPTS: An online platform for exploring the contents of the NS/S seed bank collection. If you want to conduct a detailed search for appropriate crop varieties, start here. Otherwise, you may explore currently available seed varieties through our online store.
    • Researchers: If you are a researcher interested in incorporating material from our collection into your research, please contact us. We are committed to continued open public accessibility of crop diversity and will not make seeds available for research purposes that are contrary to that goal.
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Many Ways to Get Educated

Many Ways to Get Educated

At Native Seeds/SEARCH, we believe that education is an important key to building individual and community capacity for seed and food security. Our education offerings are intended to provide skills and knowledge around seed saving, aridlands agriculture, and related topics.

  • Courses and Workshops: Our instructional programming trains individuals and organizations in the Southwest to save, share, and produce their own seeds. We offer focused courses for students at different learning levels and seed saving goals.
  • Native Seeds/SEARCH Blog: Our blog is frequently updated with stories and practical advice related to the work that we do and the issues that we care about.
  • The Seedhead News: Our tri-annual newsletter also contains a wealth of useful information to help you get the most out of your seeds and to understand their cultural and historical contexts.
  • Our website also contains pages about Gardening in the Desert and Seed Saving.
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