What: Word seems to be out about purslane. When I arrived at the 14th and U streets NW farmers market on Saturday morning a mere hour and a half after opening, every vendor save one was out of the not-particularly-well-known succulent. Mexican Cultural Institute chef Patricia Jinich says the plant, known as verdolagas in Spanish, is a popular ingredient in Mexican dishes (as well as Mediterranean cuisine). It’s prized for its ability to withstand high temperatures that scorch most salad greens. It has a crisp, firm texture and will be available for the rest of the summer.
How to Buy: Young, tender plants with a bright green color are best for salads. Don’t be afraid to ask for a taste—the firm leaves should have a lemony flavor.
How to Store: Arrange loosely on a paper towel and cover. Keep refrigerated.
How to Cook: Discard the stems; they are coarse and flavorless. Jinich recommends keeping it simple with freshly squeezed lime juice, safflower (or a similarly light) oil, salt, and pepper. I served it over a few slices of heirloom tomato. For a bit more color, mix the leaves with thinly sliced radishes and macerate in lime juice for around 30 minutes. Add salt to taste, and serve as a side salad or garnish.
Photo by Phoebe Connelly