By this time in the Arizona monsoon season, flower gardens and other empty spaces should be full of juicy purslane, also called verdolagas. It has small fleshly leaves about the size of a fingernail, pinkish stems, and grows close to the ground. I have only a small patch this year next to an irrigation emitter because it simply has not rained yet in our part of downtown Tucson. The cactus are pitifully shrivelled and the ground is weedless. The picture above is from last year.
Purslane can be eaten raw, chopped in salads or sautéed . In addition to all the vitamin C, calcium, and iron, purslane also has the most omega-3 fatty acids of any green. This is an important nutrient as our modern diets do not provide enough of it. Certain fibers also help in controlling blood sugar. Since it’s free and (usually) abundant, why not try some?
My friend Roni Rivera-Ashford taught me to put a bowl under the colander and catch the water you use to rinse the purslane. You will find lots of very tiny black seeds in the water. Pour that water with the seeds on a potted plant and you’ll have purslane next year.
To prepare the purslane, first chop and sauté some onion and garlic in a little oil. I have I’Itoi onions left in my fridge from spring. Somehow they “know” it is time to be planted so they are beginning to sprout so I used some of those.
Next add the chopped purslane.
The classic next addition is chopped tomatoes. My advisor on Mexican food is my water aerobics buddy Elda Islas. She cooked for a houseful of sons when they were growing up and now delights grandchildren with her authentic Mexican food. She’s also pretty laid back. When I asked what else to add, she said, “Anything you want!” She added, “Sometimes I just clean out the refrigerator.” Taking her cue, I also added fresh corn and sautéed chicken pieces.
The mixture tasted a little bland to me, so I added a tablespoon of Santa Cruz Chili Paste. That is a staple in my refrigerator.
Elda’s suggestion for cheese topping is also forgiving: “Whatever you have.” I have some nice organic white cheddar so that is what you see on these purslane tacos.
If you have a favorite way to use purslane, please share with the rest of us.
*I will be at the Second Annual Prickly Pear Festival in Superior this Saturday demonstratiing Prickly Pear Onion Jam. This event was rollicking last year and promises to be even better this year.
If you are interested in more recipes for desert plants, take a look at my books Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants and The Prickly Pear Cookbook. The New Southwest Cookbook contains recipes from talented restaurant and resort chefs throughout the Southwest using traditional ingredients in new and delicious ways.