Purslane, the Noxious Weed That Greeks (and Others) Love
The Incredible Edible Weed
There is one of them in the garden again, it wasn't there yesterday after I had pulled all of them out the day before; another noxious weed invader. Auugh, I had pulled out it seems like, hundreds of them and had thrown them into the green bin two days ago; I had to remember to not throw it in the compost pile unless I wanted hundreds more of them when I used the compost.
What is it, what is this noxious, invasive, almost overwhelming weed, I think to myself after I had pulled this later invader out of the ground. I made sure that I got the entire root system, and disposed of it in the weed bucket. Then, just at that moment after I had pulled the weed and disposed of it, the Greek lady from down the street walks by and says, "Hello, how are you." As I mumble a greeting in return, she is looking at my gardening efforts and observes the nasty invader weed lying on the top of the pile in the weed bucket. She bends over, picks it up, says, "do you mind?" When I shrug my shoulders, she eats some of its leaves with an air of relish. I am amazed and it shows, she comments, "very good, you should eat it, then reaching under a plant, finds another one (that I had missed) pulls it out and hands it to me. Then, turning to leave, she comments, "it is glistritha, very good in salads, the Mexicans call it verdolagas, goodbye." With that, she left and after she left, I mulled over the word glee-stree-tha (with the accent on the second syllable) and then threw this second weed specimen into the weed bucket before continuing my weeding.
I enjoy weeding to some degree in the morning and during the week I pull out the ones that the gardener missed or ones that grew up during the week between his visits. At this point, I forgot about the glee-stree-tha and went into the house for the day, one of the advantages of being retired, I can pretty well do what I want to do and besides, the gardener will be here tomorrow and should get the rest of the weeds.
This vignette is the first in a group whereby I came to an appreciation of the so-called weed, Purslane, as a very valuable addition to my salads and other food dishes that I eat. It is valuable primarily because of its benefit to my health but also because, being both wild and cultivated it is easy to locate and harvest. I list the additional vignettes below:
Characteristics of Purslane - Noxious, no; Invasive, yes.
With the above being said, Purslane supposedly originated in Persia and/or India and has since traveled all around the world; there is hardly any favorable growing location in the world where the plant has not become an invader or food, depending on your orientation.
The invasive characteristics of Purslane reminds me of the story that has been told about Plantain, another edible and invasive plant.. Reportedly the Native Americans if the East called Plantain, another invader, by a name meaning "the white man's footprint," because wherever the white invaders traveled, the previously unknown plant (to the Indians, that is) soon followed, carried there on the boots of the more mobile invader.
Purslane has light green, fleshy somewhat succulent leaves that grow out from relatively strong stems with very small yellow flowers. These flowers open and close depending on the time of the day and the associated temperature. The stems tend to lie low to the ground as they radiate outwards from the single taproot; that is, regarding the wild member of the family with the cultivated varieties being more upright. They generally form large mats of leaves; the plant is closely related to Rose Moss as a fellow member of the Portulaca Genus.
The seeds of Purslane require temperatures of about 90 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate which means that they will typically appear in June well after the effectiveness of preemergent herbicides as depleted. Unless removed from the growing medium, the plant, as an annual, will continue to grow and produce seeds until the first frost appears in the Fall. Reportedly it has been determined that the seeds of Purslane have been able to germinate as long as 40 years after their production by the mother plant. Rototilling has been known to bring the seeds up to the surface years after that original production occurred with a drastic result for the gardener, they reappear to the anguish of the gardener.