© 2024 EpicTactical. All Rights Reserved.



By Christopher Nyerges

[Nyerges is the author of over two dozen books, including “Guide to Wild Foods,” “Foraging Edible Wild Plants of North America,” “Extreme Simplicity,” and others.  Information on his classes and books is available at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com]

A long time ago in a distant universe, I was still in high school and very much focused on discovering all I could about the very fascinating and exciting world of wild foods – ethno-botany.  I began to realize that the lineage of using wild plants for food and medicine was still very much alive, though hidden, not so much yet out in the open.

In my Pasadena high school in 1972, I became a part of the school’s journalism team and I wrote for the school newspaper. I used that opportunity to share with the world – well, with my fellow students anyway – my enthusiasm for the world of wild plants and their uses. My teacher-advisor said it would be ok to write about the uses of plants I could find growing right on the school campus – assuming there were any, she added with skepticism.

The more I looked, the more we were surprised.  Besides wild mushrooms on the lawn, the campus was packed with the full spectrum of European weeds as well as the many uses of the exotic trees that were so common, such as the edible pods of the carob tree.

PURSLANE  (Portulaca oleraceae)

I had just recently learned about purslane, and found it crunchy, tasty, and just a bit sour.  And once I discovered it, I did just like Thoreau did, I ate it raw in salad, I boiled it, I fried it, I pickled it.  I really liked the pickles.  Because purslane was my most recent discovery, I ate the plant at every opportunity, and found discreet ways to slip it into our family meals.  My father wasn’t fooled when he saw the little succulent paddle-shaped leaves in his salad, and wouldn’t eat them. My father had informed me that he doesn’t like the wild plants that I had been bringing home to eat.

“How do you know  you don’t like them?” I innocently asked.  “Have you ever actually eaten these?”

“No, but I know I don’t like them” was his Archie Bunker-like response.

 But when purslane was diced and mixed with other cooked greens, he ate it without complaint. And when purslane stems were diced and mixed into a Chinese soup mix, my father barely noticed it.  Wild foods were going main-stream in my family, even if they had to fly sub-rosa.

So one day, after school was out, I found an incredibly healthy patch of purslane growing near the photo lab.  I collected a lot and wondered how I could create a salad.   I was near the home economics class and there were about five girls and the teacher still in the kitchen-class room talking. 
“Hello,” I ventured. “Can I make you all a salad?  Do you have any salad dressing?”

They looked at me as if I’d dropped out of Mars, and after a lot of giggles and answering a lot of questions, they were all helping me rinse the low-growing purslane plants, dicing them, and finally adding a diced tomato to the bowl, and topping it all with their oil and vinegar salad dressing.  The biggest hurdle, once they realized I was serious, was that they wanted to be sure I had correctly identified the plant.  They didn’t want to end up vomiting or worse, dead.  I had assured them that I was a top botany student under the tutelage of Mr. Muir.  I further explained, that the purslane plant originated in India, and was now  a fairly common wild food that had been used in this country for a few centuries.

The girls, the teacher, and I then filled our little paper bowls with purslane salad, and they all gingerly ate a few tastes.

“Oh, tastes better than I thought,” one exclaimed.

“The dressing is the best part,” added another.  Everyone laughed.

I finished the rest of the salad, thanked them, and departed.

I have always liked purslane, an easy-to-recognize plant that grows in gardens as easily as it grows in the bottoms of washes when the water descends in early summer.  It’s really quite ubiquitous.  And some years ago, a few Greek researchers discovered that purslane is the richest plant source of Omega 3 fatty acids, which means that it will lower cholesterol levels if you eat it.

It’s gotten so popular that I now see it in the summer time at farmers markets, often under the Spanish name of “verdolago.”

At one market, I asked the farmer, “Do you grow it, or do you just pick it?”  Understanding my point, he just laughed.

Categories: Prepping,Survival,Training

Tags: ,,,,,