This year more than any other time I have been really expanding my knowledge of wild foods. Though, I have been ‘foraging’ since I was a child, I recently set a goal to make 50% of my food intake to be from the wild. The easiest way for me to do this was to make sure that half of my meal was comprised of wild food. Simple enough.
I wouldn’t say that I’ve hit my goal 100% yet but I am close. Considering that my overall food intake is actually quite low (I eat maybe once a day). I do my best to work some wild food into my biggest meal of the day but my daily smoothie make’s it the easier.
Aside from my one main meal (that isn’t every day) I have a daily smoothie. It’s usually a green smoothie that I can easily add wild foods into such as purslane, dandelion, plantain, lamb’s quarters and an assortment of berries.
When I first started out I didn’t have much variety in my knowledge book. However, this year I have added tons of new wild foods into my diet and one magic wild food I want to share with everyone is Purslane. This food is everywhere and the coolest part is that it grows in the wildest of places, like side walks on the way to grocery stores haha.
All About Purslane
Purslane, also known as Portulaca oleracea, is considered a common weed to many that may even be growing on the side walks in front of your house, without your awareness! Chances are, you walk past this nutritionally dense, medicinal food daily!
It’s crazy to think about how many times I walked past this food on the way to buy “greens” from the store that cost way too much and don’t compare nutritionally…
Anyway, the cultivation of this wild edible started in India and Persia, and then made its way to the rest of the world. American’s usually spend money and energy to pluck it out and throw it away with others ‘weeds’, while others cultivate it specifically to eat as food.
Purslane is actually quite a beautiful weed (see the photo) with more meaty leaves and often yellow flowers. The real catch though is its health benefits.
A True Survivor
Wild foods are superior to most other foods. I once read that “weeds are food that mastered every survival skill aside from growing in rows.” Their surviving spirits make them tough, resilient and more robust than the week, anemic plants we see in grocery stores.
The seeds of purslane are so powerful they can stay viable in land for up to 40 years — and it’s totally wild. It will grow just about anywhere, from well-tended gardens to the cracks of busy streets. This resilient plant poses similar benefits for our immune systems and overall health.
Often called pig weed (and it certainly would be better for your pigs than some of the GMO grain many farmers have been using to feed their livestock), Purslane has more beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids than many fish oils! The weed also has one of the highest levels of vitamin A among all leafy green vegetables (1320 IU/100 g, provides 44% of RDA). High Vitamin A foods can help protect us from many types of cancers and helps to boost eye health.
Purslane packs two different types of betalain alkaloid pigments – a reddish beta-cyanis and a yellow beta-xanthins, which are potent antioxidants and anti-mutagens. Also, you will find plenty of Vitamin C, B, riboflavin, pyridoxine, nianin and carotenoids, not to mention important minerals like iron, magnesium and calcium. The tap roots in wild weeds can grow up to 100 feet deep, helping them reach mineral rich soils far beyond what most plants have access to.
Wild edibles have never been more needed than now. We spend so much unnecessary money on food and supplements to better our health, when the most medicinal, bio-available nutrition is right outside for free! Purslane is not a weed, this food should be elevated to sacred status!
Purslane & Avocado Tacos (Recipe)
Now perhaps the only thing standing in the way between us and consuming wild edibles is our taste buds. However, you will be surprised how delicious some of these foods are. They get better as your taste buds become more accustomed to natural foods. Therefore, jumping right from a processed food diet to wild food isn’t recommended.
You can however improv the tastes of many wild foods with proper cooking techniques. Purslane, though considered a weed is showing up at Farmer’s Markets and I suspect more wild edibles will be making an appearance soon.
Meanwhile, Mexicans have known about its healthful properties for hundreds of years and they eat it both raw and cooked. In fact, they consider it a vegetable! In Mexico it’s called verdolagas.
Cooking mellows its tang and shrinks it, which means you can eat more of it! Paired with avocado and a tomato relish, this is a super-healthy vegetarian snack or main dish. With this recipe you will be well on your way to enjoying all the benefits of wild food plus the deliciousness of home cooking.
Here’s what you’ll need:
For Pico de Gallo:
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 cup chopped white onion
- 1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh Serrano chile, or to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb. purslane, including tender upper stems, chopped (about 6 cups)
- 8 sprouted corn tortillas
- 2 avocados
- 1/2 cup grated raw cheese (about 3 ounces), or to taste
- cilantro sprigs and lime wedges for serving
Here’s how you make it:
- Make Pico de Gallo:
Combine tomatoes, onion, lime juice, chile, and cilantro in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let it stand while assembling the tacos.
- Cook garlic in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until pale golden. Add purslane with salt to taste and cook, stirring, until wilted and tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a sieve set over a bowl and let it drain.
- Have a folded kitchen towel ready for the tortillas. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot, then heat a tortilla, keeping the others covered, flipping it occasionally with tongs, until it puffs slightly and gets brown in spots, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer tortilla, as toasted, to towel, enclosing it, and repeat with remaining tortillas. Keep them warm in towel.
- Quarter avocados lengthwise and remove pit, then peel. Cut each section into thin slices (lengthwise or crosswise, it doesn’t matter) and season with salt.
- Assemble tacos by spooning some purslane into a folded taco and topping it with avocado slices, cheese, cilantro sprigs, and pico de gallo. Serve with lime wedges.