This tasty weed is making a comeback in Tucson

2014-07-24T15:00:00Z 2014-07-29T17:54:40Z This tasty weed is making a comeback in TucsonSusan Billings Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

You’ve walked across it, sprayed it with weed killer and tried to smother it with gravel.

It grows and spreads like a weed, especially this time of year with the summer rains.

Known as verdolagas or purslane, this lowly succulent is gaining new fame as a nutritional powerhouse, with loads of vitamin E, beta-carotene, potassium and magnesium. It’s also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

And for some Tucson old-timers, it’s an essential ingredient in homemade Mexican food — think pork stew, scrambled eggs, green salads and salsa.

Like the BlackBerry cellphone, verdolagas have fallen out of favor over the years. But interest in native foods has surged recently here and across the country, with more people willing to experiment with things like tender dandelions, plantain leaves and lamb’s quarters.

Sara Jones recently passed out verdolagas samples — including salsa and Mediterranean dip — at a demonstration at the Santa Cruz farmers market in Mercado San Augustin.

Quite a few people approached her for a taste test with a gleam of recognition in their eyes, saying, “My mom used to use that.”

Jones is the volunteer coordinator for Tucson Community Supported Agriculture, which includes verdolagas in its produce packages for customers.

Raw purslane has a lot of a crunch and a peppery taste but mellows when cooked.

To prepare it, rinse well and chop off the roots and lower stems. The leaves and upper stems are edible.

For a simple verdolagas treat, try frying them with onions and chile peppers, then mix with warm beans and sprinkle Mexican cheese on top. Serve with corn tortillas.

Here’s a recipe for pork stew with verdolagas

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Never has home gardening been so big in Tucson and Southern Arizona. It’s more than a passing trend — people want locally grown, fresh produce that’s healthful and delicious. And we don’t want to pay a premium for it.

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