Hunting and gathering: picking purslane

Hunting and gathering: picking purslane

Fattoush Salad mjpg Editor's note: The following is the second weekly column from new TIO contributor Lisa Barlow. Barlow is a writer and photographer who divides her time between New York, Telluride and San Pancho, Mexico. An enthusiastic omnivore, she specializes in stories about food.


It was only after I’d gotten home from our local Green Market that I realized that the large bunch of purslane I’d bought was the very same weed I’d been so vigorously deracinating from my garden all summer.

Portulaca Oleracea, also known as Pigweed, is actually richer in a whole slate of healthful properties such as beta carotene, folate, Vitamin C and essential fatty acids than the lettuce it was growing next to in my backyard. A native of the Americas, the plant has traveled widely, most notably to France, where it is used in ratatouilles; to the Middle East, where it is tossed into a salad called “fattoush;” and to Malawi, where its name translates as the “buttocks of the chief’s wife,” or as we might say, “fat tush.” Free and prolific, purslane was also a staple of miners’ diet during the Gold Rush, as it was always at the ready for a camp meal. LB2

 With fleshy leaves (“mucilaginous” is a descriptor that keeps unpleasantly popping up) and bright green color, purslane tastes vaguely lemony and has a slight crunch. My bunch was pretty bland and when eaten raw, much improved by a garlicky salad dressing. Inspired by the great southern chef, Edna Lewis, I also sautéed it with bacon, which of course, is exactly the right thing to do with pigweed.

-By Lisa Barlow


Serves 4

The great thing about this salad is that you can riff on it and add whatever salad greens you have. Feel free to include radishes if you have them. Arugula and watercress are also nice additions. I like to grill the bread after brushing it with olive oil, but you can just as easily put it into the toaster.




1/3 cup Lemon Juice

1/3 cup Olive Oil

3 Tbsp. Cider Vinegar

2 Cloves of Garlic Crushed

½ tsp. Sumac

½ tsp. Salt

Pepper to taste.



1 head Romaine Lettuce

2 or 3 Tomatoes

2 Cucumbers

1 small Red Onion

1 Cup Purslane

½ cup Fresh Mint Leaves

½ cup Italian Parsley Leaves

3 Thick Slices Tuscan Bread or Pita Pockets

½ cup Feta Cheese

½ cup Kalamata Olives


  1. Mix Dressing. Adjust to taste and put to the side.
  2. Slice Romaine Lettuce into a large bowl.
  3. Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze out some of the juice. Dice in ½ inch pieces.
  4. Peel and dice cucumbers in to ½ inch pieces.
  5. Dice onion into ¼ inch pieces.
  6. Pinch off Purslane leaves from stems.
  7. Roughly chop Mint and Parsley leaves.
  8. Grill Bread slices. You can brush with olive oil first if you like. Cube them into 1 inch pieces.
  9. Cut Feta cheese into ½ inch pieces.
  10. Place all ingredients into the bowl and add Olives.
  11. Toss with as much dressing as you feel is necessary to coat salad and soak into the bread.
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