Summer- and Winter Purslane
The Dutch use two varieties in their cooking, 'zomerpostelein' (Portulaca oleracea or 'summer purslane'), a succulent herb, and 'winterpostelein' (Claytonia perfoliata, 'winter purslane' or miner's lettuce), a soft, leafy herb.
Summer purslane has been cultivated in the Netherlands as early as the 13th and 14th centuries, while winter purslane arrived there at a much later date. Winter purslane typically has tender, bright-green heart-shaped leaves (, see photo to the right) with a texture like that of lamb's lettuce (mache), while summer purslane has succulent, smooth oblong-shaped leaves, see picture of succulent purslane .
Nutritional Benefits of Purslane
Purslane is several times richer in omega-3 fatty acids than spinach, and contains alpha-linolenic acid, one of the most highly regarded omega-3 fatty acids. These beneficial fats are said to benefit the brain, blood- and immune systems and regulate metabolism. Purslane is also high in vitamin C and a good source of iron, magnesium, kalium and calcium.
Grow Your Own
Purslane spoils quickly once harvested and therefore doesn't do well on supermarket shelves, which is probably why it became a forgotten vegetables (although technically it's a herb). The best way to enjoy its nutritional benefits is to look for it in wholefoods stores or farmer's markets with day-fresh veggies or, in fact, to grow your own.
According to David Beaulieu, About.com Guide to Landscaping, purslane is "edible landscaping at its best: it's free, and there's no work involved in growing it." (for full article, see Purslane: Culinary Delight of Edible Landscaping) In fact, claims Amy Jeanroy, About.com Guide to Herb Gardens, it may already be growing in your garden without you knowing it, "Purslane is in almost everyone's yards right now. It grows close to the ground, in disturbed areas, doing well in just about any light location, making it a common weed."
Foraging is hip is right now, so what better time than to resdiscover this forgotten superfood? Because you're more likely to find regular summer purslane, look out for a plant with a round, smooth stem that trails along the ground like a small vine. Young plants usually have a green stem, while the stems of mature plants take on a red hue. The juicy leaves form clusters of 5 or 6. Flowers are often yellow with round black seeds.
What To Do With Purslane:
Purslane has a sharp-sour, peppery flavour. The succulent variety (summer purslane) can be treated as you would spinach or watercress; use fresh purslane raw in salads, sautée in butter as a side dish, use in soups and sauces or as a garnish. Combine it with romaine lettuce and capers in a salad with a yogurt dressing, see recipe for purslane salad with yogurt and capers. The leafy variety, or winter purslane, is best used raw in salads, cold sauces, and folded through stamppot sla instead of butter lettuce. You can even use it instead of basil when making pesto.
In the Netherlands, purslane is often teamed with ingredients such as katenspek (a type of Dutch bacon that is first cooked, then smoked), mushrooms, roast beef, smoked salmon, komijnekaas (cumin-flavored Dutch cheese), eggs, chervil and potatoes.