Monday, December 22, 2008

Purslane, The Omega-3 Rich Salad Green

Purslane is a traditional Mediterranean vegetable also known as the garden flower portulaca. It is an intensely rich source of alpha-linolenic acid, which the body converts into the essential fatty acids known as EPA, and almost 3 percent of purslane by weight consists of alpha-, beta-, and gamma-carotene and lutein.

A three-ounce serving of purslane contains the equivalent of a 100-IU capsule of vitamin E, 1/4 of 100 mg capsule of vitamin C ascorbic acid, and 14.8 mg of glutathione. Some ongoing, unpublished German research centers on the use of purslane as a means of blocking the carcinogenic effects of estrogen in the breast, ovaries, and uterus. And because it packs lots of essential fatty acids with a minimum of carbohydrates, it should find place on all type 2 diabetes food lists.

Not only is it easy to grown purslane in your home garden, it is hard to keep it from overrunning other plants. When the plants are young, they make a tart but succulent addition to salads with just a little washing and dicing. After the plants are mature, they are best parboiled in salted water for 1-2 minutes before adding them to salads. In New Mexico cuisine, purslane is known as verdolagas, fried with onions, added to pinto beans, or used as an herb in potato salads.

Healthful Ham on Rye
If you want to add the alpha-linolenic acid and n-3 fatty acids your body needs to balance the n-6 fatty acids in ham, try this crisp and crunchy variation on a traditional ham on rye.

2 slices toasted rye bread
2–3 slices good quality ham
A handful of fresh, small purslane, including stems
Mustard or horseradish
Assemble your sandwich using purslane instead of lettuce or pickles.

Turkish Purslane and Yogurt Salad
A friend who is a frequent tourist in Turkey (and a purveyor of colorful travelogues) tells me he was able to bribe his way out of a traffic ticket with the promise of bringing the patrol officer this salad.

1/4 pound (about 100 g) purslane, parboiled in salt water
5 large cucumbers that you have peeled and seeded, then cut into quarters and sliced
2 tablespoons (about 15 g) each of finely chopped mint, chervil, and cilantro
4 cups (about 500 g) whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup (about 60 ml) extra virgin oil oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons (about 10 g) ground coriander
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend yogurt, dry ingredients, and olive oil in a large bowl. Add vegetables to the well-blended mixture, tossing them in the yogurt dressing until all vegetables pieces are well coated. The flavors of the herbs come through best when the salad is chilled.

Read about purslane in a vegan weight loss plan.

Photo credit: Thanks to John Comeau for providing this photo of purslane on Wikimedia Commons.

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