There I was, pulling weeds and patting soil into place, when I saw an old friend, right there, snaking along the ground. It was purslane, (Portulaca oleracea) though some call it “rabbit grass.”
Purslane is considered by many to be a weed. But as we all know, a weed to some is dinner to others. I first tasted purslane with my dear friend Danie Dubois, about a million years ago when I was a cooking student on a break from my classes in Paris. Danie raises geese for foie gras in the Dordogne. She also has a table d’hôte and a chambre d’hôte, which means she cooks constantly. Her meals are exquisite, and as often as not she steps out her back door and goes into the garden or field nearby to harvest at least part of dinner.
Purslane usually grows like wildfire, everywhere you don’t want it. It’s roots are shallow and it’s easy to harvest. I wondered why we were so carefully searching out this snaky weed. When Danie broke off a piece for me to taste and its tart juice flooded my mouth, I realized the point of our efforts. I’ve loved it ever since.
Purslane is not really a northern French thing, though. I never see it on the menu here, and have never eaten it in anyone’s home. I’ve really never even seen it in my sometimes weed-filled garden. But as of today, that is a bit of history.
My purslane plant looks hesitant. I won’t harvest it right away. But if it starts snaking around the way I think it will, I’ll pluck it from the soil and use it just the way Danie taught me to.
I’ll make a garlicky – very garlicky – vinaigrette. I’ll boil my potatoes with a bay leaf and when they’re just about tender through, I’ll put them in that vinaigrette, toss them, then let them sit until they’ve cooled to room temperature, tossing them occasionally. Meanwhile, I’ll have rinsed and dried the purslane, and cut it into short lengths. When the potatoes are still warm but not hot, I’ll add the purslane to the potatoes and toss, toss, toss. Depending on the weather, I may add some crisp-fried bacon (cold weather = need for bacon).
When the seasoning is adjusted perfectly, I’ll take that salad to the table and we will “se régaler” (enjoy it more than we thought possible)!
If you’ve got lots of purslane on hand, I recommend the above recipe…