Saturday, July 31, 2010

In Cambridge, A Different Kind of Weed For Sale

Spotted for sale at the Harvard Square/Charles Hotel farmer's market on Fridays and Sundays: purslane. That's right, purslane for four bucks a pound. Could this be another twist on the old story line of country rubes being taken in by erudite urbanites? In this version, clever farmers milk their lettered city customers eager to pay top dollar for locally grown, organic produce.

Purslane: one of the most common of weeds (which is what we call all plants for which we don't know the name and have lost track of the use), it flourishes everywhere here in the city. It flourishes everywhere. Gardeners pull it from their cultivated gardens as often as they weed. It pullulates in the cracks and crevices of streets from Dudley to Brattle and anywhere else there's a bit of soil.

Crunchy and high in omega-3 fatty acids, purslane is not only abundant, it is delicious and nutritious. It's also free. While foraging from places where there's lots of vehicular traffic is not a good idea, if the soil in your yard is relatively heavy metal free, give it a taste, at the very least. Thoreau, while at Walden, enjoyed his boiled and salted while others like it raw in salads.

Ultimately, as long as they have buyers, no one can begrudge farmers one penny of what they earn or charge for the fruits of their labors - even if that fruit is just a common plant readily available for the pickin'.


  1. I'm sure, in Cambridge, much of the price is simply for the privilege of not having to scrounge if from the sidewalk or some other very polluted place. That said, the farmers are probably growing one of the "garden purslane" varieties that grows more upright and less spread across the ground. Tastier and stays cleaner! You can buy seeds online and grow a nice bunch in a pot. It's great in omlettes.

  2. I pulled buckets of the stuff from my garden beds this past weekend. And to think it was worth money. Heck, I'd pay someone $4/lb to pull it out FOR me.

  3. Sweet! Ewell Gibbons recommended the stuff too. I've been noticing it all over this year. I hope the farmer is making a good buck on the stuff he grows. I'll bet Anon. is right that it is a better variety and doesn't have all that "urban patina" on it. I've never tried it. Gotta get some. There is an abandoned planter around the corner full of the stuff. Maybe it's semi clean...