Sunday, October 14, 2012

Purslane and New Perspectives

This article was first published in The Chautauqua

Last week (written in August) we ventured into the local farmers market for the first time. I wasn't sure if we had anything of interest to sell and I didn't want to bring in anything that others had, I wanted to compliment the items I've seen at the market.

We (our farm help, Mark and I) cut heads of romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuces, a variety of herbs, and bagged up purple beans. I also picked and bagged purslane, as well as printed out an information sheet on its use as food. I knew this would be a conversation starter, although I doubted anyone would buy.

If 'purslane' doesn't ring a bell – you may know it as portulaca. Yes, that 'weed' that your parents made you spend hours removing from the garden, being careful to not leave behind a root or leaf as it (supposedly) can reproduce from those. That's what we brought into the market and laid out among our other items for sale.

It definitely invited conversation and a lot of reactions. A lot of people said they would be going home to try some from their own garden, although I wonder if the thought made it home with them and if the purslane ever made its way to their table.

I am not sure if it is something I would plant and consciously cultivate however given the fact that our garden has an already established stand of it, I am happy to find out about its nutritional qualities. According to Edible Garden Weeds of Canada: “purslane is richer in iron than any other leafy vegetable, except parsley. It also said to be rich in vitamins A, C, B and omega 3s.

I have also read that it is grown as a companion plant in many countries – providing ground cover, holding in moisture and using its deep roots to bring nutrients to the surface through harder soil.

It is often how we look at things – if we see them as a problem or opportunity. Looking at purslane as a food source and a support for other plants in the garden means that I see the patches of it in our garden very differently.

It's likely no one will ever buy the purslane we bring to market but it gives us a way to start conversations with others and to make our booth memorable. I doubt people remember our farm name, but I wouldn't be surprised if we are referred to as “those people trying to get us to eat weeds.” There are worse ways one could be referred to.

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