Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Weeds In My backyard Are Plentiful

We should always know our strengths and our weaknesses. As I age they become more apparent. Both that is. For me gardening is not something I love. For me it is so time consuming and my time is spread in other creative endeavors, so my yard is not picture perfect. I do have some very fast growing weeds that tend to amaze me.  Even when we had a drought period and the ground was hard as concrete. The weeds would be oblivious to their conditions. I would think "hey do you not know that I quit watering you"! I would water my plants but not those weeds. They didn’t care. To spite me they grew anyway. I would let them have there way with my yard until I could not take it anymore and then I tackled them with a fury. Blisters and calluses on hands and sore back to boot. They would always win.

In suburbia we have a nice small yard not sprawling by any means. Very square and all fenced in to keep the dogs safely confined. It is actually my favorite room in the house. We have a porch that is screened in with a bottom screen missing, instant doggie door. With three dogs of our own and many fosters along the way we have learned not to fuss about the details.

So in our square little parcel of land we have a nice container herb garden, some tomatoes, brussels spouts, and more weeds than I can handle. Since I am a novice about plants I really don’t know which are the flowers and which are the weeds. Although, I am getting better at deciphering. I really hate weeding but do it and appreciate all my friends who spend day after day making their yards beautiful. God love em.

So while weeding yesterday I discovered something that had just popped up. It looked familiar. Like something I had seen before or read about, and I wondered where on earth it came from. I did not plant it, it just appeared along with the many other weeds, and what I think may be a pumpkin?

So I put on my investigative hat and did a google image search. Aha it was purslane. An edible weed and a wonderfully good for you herb.

Here is what I read about purslane. It has a reddish smooth stem. The paddle shaped leaves are ½ to 2 inches long. In late fall a yellow flower is produced.

Purslane grows from late spring to fall on sunny lawns and meadows and also in partial shade.
The sweet-and sour stems and leaves are good in salads or cooked as a side dish (steam, simmer or sauté 5 to 10 minutes). Use chopped purslane as a thickening agent in soups (like okra).
Purslane is a terrific plant source of heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids and iron. It is also high in vitamin C; and contains some beta-carotene and calcium. Surprisingly, herbalists have only recently picked up on this herb's benefits.

Purslane originates from India where it was a food crop centuries ago. It was Gandhi's favorite food. If it is good enough for Gandhi I’m there! Now it also grows across America, and around the world. It has a wonderful survival tactic: The succulent (juicy) stem, keeps it from drying out. If someone decides purslane is a "weed" and uproots it, it uses the water in the stem to make seeds before it dies, and soon there'll be even more purslane.

One very important note: Whenever foraging in your own yard or elsewhere. Be sure you know what you have. According to Wildman Steve Brill there is a plant that looks similar called spurge. Beware of spurge, a different-looking poisonous creeping wild plant that sometimes grows near purslane. Wildman Brill says to break open the stem and if there is a milky white substance do not eat that plant. I read this note after I ate some last night then panicked and ran to the back yard to snap a stem open. Whew I’m not gonna die! No milky white.

So I had this growing for free in my backyard? I was so excited that I started thinking of how to photograph it.

We added it to our salad, after washing it of course. With three dogs in a small space I am sure one of them had urinated in the vicinity.

Food to me is such a gift that we never should take for granted. That is why I call myself a conscious eater. Someone who is aware of where their food comes from and respects the process of growing and tending to our food supply. I think when you are conscious you have a better sense of respect for everything in our planet.

Finding this herb is so ironic. Or as my daughter would say “that is not irony”. You know what I mean I have been cursing weeds the whole summer. It seems like the only thing that I can do well when it comes to gardening. Then I find this gem of a weed that is edible and delicious and good for you. I found this quote that says it well.

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. ~A.A. Milne

So my new weed is not a weed after all. I am looking at my weeds a little differently now and in my desire to slow life down a bit I have even started enjoying the process of weeding. It is in the quiet moments that thoughts are born.


  1. I bet my weeds could compete with your weeds! Although there are a few tomatoes and such bearing fruit some where in there.

  2. Purslane???!!??! I have this "weed" growing all over my yard, and I have been picking it all summer long...going out to the backyard right now to see if it really is purslane. Thanks for the tip! I enjoy reading your blog!

  3. Is that you Darlene? Dog loving Darlene?
    Yes if that is what you have by all means pick and eat. There are recipes on the internet to use it with. Pickled or sauteed. Yum. Let me know what you come up with. Thanks for your post.