Friday, July 23, 2010

Common purslane

I was excited to find one small common purslane plant at my local farmers market. This old vegetable is hardly available anymore here in Norway, but was well known in my mothers and grandmothers generation. It thrives in my herb garden, but only one plant will prove to be more than a curio than a significant source for culinary use.

Common purslane originates from Asia, but is now cultivated around the world. It is regarded as an invasive species in the US after it was taken there by the settlers. In Norway it was widely cultivated, but is hardly used or even known now.

I planted mine under a large apple tree, but with morning sun. It shares the flowerbed with a large columbine and a few flower bulbs. It likes thick and fertile soil, and I used fresh potting soil in this bed prepared last year.

Purslane was said to have medicinal purposes, but is now used in cooking. Traditionally stalks were pickled and served to fried fish or fish soup and to Sunday roast and meatballs. Stalks were even steamed and used as a substitute for asparagus.

I found a few ways to prepare purslane at the Aust-Agder Archive website. I will take the liberty to translate them for our non-norwegian readers.

Pickled purslane stalks

1 kilo / 2,2 lb's purslane stalks
1 kilo / 2,2 lb's sugar
50 cl / 1 pint vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves

Remove leaves and thin stalks. Thick are washed and tied. Place in boiling water until slightly tender. Pour off water and dry them in a kitchen towel.

Boil vinegar and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool. Place purslane in a jar and pour liquid over.

Pour off liquid after a few days and heat again. Cool and pour over stalks again. Repeat procedure 2-3 more times.

Purslane in vinegar

Cut thick purslane stalks in finger long pieces. Place in brine for 12 hours. Remove brine and dry in a colander and dry them in a cloth.

Heat enough vinegar, nutmeg and bayleaves to cover the purslane. Add stalks when vinegar foams and bring up to boiling temperature. Drain stalks from liquid. Reduce vinegar slightly and pour it boiling hot over the purslane. You may add small pickled onions for more flavour.

Use for roasts or in gravies and ragouts.

Purslane in sugar

Cut thick stalks in small chunks. Bring equal quantities vinegar and water to boiling temperature. Add stalks. Dry them in a colander and then in a kitchen towel.

Weigh the purslane, as you will need 150 grams (5 oz) sugar to 150 grams purslane. Boil sugar to syrup with 125 ml (4 fluid oz) water. Add purslane to syrup and heat to boiling point. Then pour all into a jar or glass.

Separate the syrup after a few days and reheat it with an additional 30 grams (1 oz) sugar, lemon peel and vanilla. Remove foam on surface and boil until smooth.

Pour syrup over purslane when cold.

Photo - top: Portulaca sativa cultivar by Burschik
Photo - right: Common purslane in Flora Danica


Eleni said...

Hei Tor. I am a greek, currently living in Norway and i have missed purslane in my Greek salad!
So this means that i can find it here on a common local plant shop? What about other weeds that we are using in our dishes in South countries? I have heard that many of them exist in abundance here but unfortunately i don´t know how to recognize them.
Why they don´t exist in traditional norwegian dishes? I think that weeds are the perfect compination with your nice fish;)

Tor Johnsen said...

Hi Eleni!
Purslane is not found in ordinary nurseries or grocery shops here, sadly! I found mine at a Farmers Market stall in Arendal, my hometown with other and more exotic plants. Sadly it was consumed by Iberian Snails before I could harvest it. Other wild herbs are found in the wild in Norway. I use wild oregano, but e.g. special varieties of Angelica, caraway, and thyme grow wild in Norway. Mine are however planted an grows in my garden on the Southern Coast. To find herbs in Oslo, I recommend the many Turkish (no offence, I hope) shops found in Oslo to explore to find herbs for your Mediterranean cuisine. Best wishes. Tor Johnsen