Wednesday, February 15, 2012

BENEFITS OF WILD PLANTS

Surprisingly enough there are many wild plants out there that we all call "weeds" that are very healthy for you.  I've just started learning about the many wild plants out there.  Here are a couple that I just discovered that I know for sure are in our garden. 

The first image is Purslane and the second image is Chickweed.  Yes, they are healthy edible wild plants.






Chickweeds - You can use the stems and leaves to make a salad or boil the greens for 5 minutes. 

Allegedly, chickweed contains a succulent flavor that enhances raw vegetable salads. Herbalists have found that chickweed is effective in treating hemorrhoids, eczema, and other irritating skin conditions.  Chickweed has also been found to have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.
Purslane - Soft, succulent Purslane or "Pusley" has more omega-3 fatty acids than in some of fish oils.

Other common names for this green vegetable are pusley, pigweed, or verdolaga.

Many health benefits of Purslane:

  • This wonderful green leafy vegetable is very low in calories (just 16 kcal/100g) and fats; but is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Fresh leaves contain surprisingly more Omega-3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid) than any other leafy vegetable plant. 100 grams of fresh purslane leaves provides about 350 mg of α-linolenic acid. Research studies show that consumption of foods rich in ω-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and help prevent development of ADHD, autism, and other developmental differences in children.
  • It is an excellent source of Vitamin A, (1320 IU/100 g, provides 44% of RDA) one of the highest among green leafy vegetables. Vitamin A is a known powerful natural antioxidant and is essential for vision. This vitamin is also required to maintain healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin A is known to help to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • Purslane is also a rich source of vitamin C, and some B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and carotenoids, as well as dietary minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese. 
  • Also present in purslane are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, the reddish beta-cyanins and the yellow beta-xanthins. Both of these pigment types are potent anti-oxidants and have been found to have anti-mutagenic properties in laboratory studies.
Who knew that these two weeds were so nutritious!  I've also read that Purslane is a wonderful snack to give your chickens and it provides them with the natural omega 3 fatty acids that they so desperately need - FREE!  If you look in the stores - omega 3 enriched eggs are VERY expensive stuff.

They sell Purslane at many farmer's markets for top dollar.  Here's a recipe for Purslane salad:

PURSLANE SALAD
3 cups purslane leaves (detach from stems unless the stems are small and easy to chew)
2 cups chopped tomato
1 tbs minced onion (or more, to taste)
Salt to taste

Cut the tomatoes across the midsection, halfway between stem and tip. Squeeze the tomatoes over the purslane until much of the seeds and juice have been expressed. Use this as a dressing for the leaves. Chop the tomatoes, making sure to scrape any remaining juice/seeds into the bowl with the purslane leaves. Add the tomatoes, onion, and salt to taste. Toss and serve promptly.

Here's another couple of tips/ideas for Purslane usage:

Chop fresh purslane stems and leaves into green salads, or using the wild herb to thicken soups. Pickle the stems to add depth to their sweet-and-sour flavor, or dredge them in flour to top casseroles. Purslane "tea" made from the fresh cuttings contributes some nutrients, but the stems and leaves resist drying for tea. Foragers with huge amounts of the weedy herb sometimes partially dry purslane to harvest seeds for use in cereals and baked goods.
I'm going to be very careful about my "weeding" this year and pick me some fresh snacks and salad fixings!!! Enjoy!

3 comments:

Leigh said...

Excellent post. There are so many wonderful wild foods available, just for the foraging. Your purslane salad sounds really good.

Anonymous said...

I cooked my purslane and eat like soup, it doesn't loose any vitamin?

Farmers Wife said...

I've never tried cooking the purslane - sounds like a good idea - especially if it doesn't lose any of the vitamins! Thanks for hte tip!