Advertisement Close

Mediterranean Cooking from the Garden with Linda Dalal Sawaya: Baqle Purslane Berbeen is a superfood!

posted on: Aug 12, 2015

purslane—baqle—picked and washed for salad © linda dalal sawaya 2015

Purslane, is an internationally common, succulent weed originating in India, known in Arabic as baqle or berbeen in Iraq, as my dear Iraqi friend Aseel tells me. It contains more Omega-3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid) than any other leafy vegetable plant making it a superfood: 100 grams of fresh purslane leaves—botanical name portulaca oleracea—provides about 350 mg of α-linolenic acid. As many health-conscious folks know, omega-3’s are antioxidants.

It is also an excellent source of Vitamin A, (1320 IU/100 g, providing 44% of RDA) and one of the highest among green leafy vegetables. Vitamin A is a known powerful natural antioxidant.

But beyond health benefits, today I found enough baqle to make the zingy purslane salad recipe from Alice’s Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking that my mother made for us; and it was so good, I ate the entire salad! The weed grows in beds planted with other veggies, on pathways, under a summer squash plant; this year it’s really thriving. It even can be found growing from sidewalk cracks, although not advisable to pick.

purslane—a comman garden supine weed  © linda dalal sawaya 2015

Lebanese purslane (insert copyright symbol) linda dalal sawaya 2015

What i love so much is that it just shows up in the garden on it’s own like clockwork, in the middle of summer. Yet this year something additional happened: I planted a variety of seeds from my family Lebanese village of Douma that has a very different growth pattern than the one in my Portland, Oregon garden. It grows upright instead of creeping flatly along the soil. My cousins in Lebanon harvested several long meandering stems for our luncheon salad that were truly impressive.

baqle from a douma garden © linda dalal sawaya 2015

baqle from a douma garden © linda dalal sawaya 2015

Compared to the supine, earth-hugging varieties I’ve seen here, this Lebanese variety stands tall and elegant, reaching for the sun. All varieties of it taste tart and are crunchy and juicy, with more tartness when picked in the early morning.

two varieties of purslane in my garden  © linda dalal sawaya 2015

Besides being favored raw in Lebanese salads, while in Lebanon last fall at Beirut’s Souk el Tayeb, which translates from Arabic to “the market of good taste”, I tasted a fabulous variation of our savory triangular spinach pies, baked on a saj and filled with purslane instead of spinach, plus parsley, spearmint, onion, and tomato. Just like Lebanese traditional spinach pies, it was seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil, sumac, salt and pepper. As soon as my Lebanese purslane is big enough, I can’t wait to be baking this purslane version in my oven on a pizza stone.

Baker in Souk el Tayeb, Beirut forming a purslane pie  © linda dalal sawaya 2015

Baking purslane pies on a saj in Souk el Tayeb, Beirut © linda dalal sawaya 2015

To make salatat baqle, wash and drain the purslane along with italian parsley and spearmint, removing the thick stems. Chop all the greens and tomatoes, and dress with our traditional garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil dressing. If you don’t have enough purslane to make a salad on its own, baqle may be added to any salad especially Lebanese fattoush. Happily, my home grown tomatoes are ready to add to this refreshing summer salad.

Lebanese purslane salad © linda dalal sawaya 2015

The Spanish name name for purslane is verdolaga and their special way to use this is cooking it into stews with meat. The Greeks and Turks use it in salads; Indians use it cooked and raw, Iraqis use it in a stew with split peas served over shariyeh (vermicelli rice)—it is a truly internationally appreciated and nutritious weed! Look for it in the farmers’ markets if you don’t find it showing up as a volunteer in your back yard. You can also purchase seeds for purslane to sow in your own garden. Enjoy! Sahtein!

Lebanese purslane salad, detail © linda dalal sawaya 2015

—Linda Dalal Sawaya is a Portland artist, cook, Master Gardener, daughter of Lebanese immigrants, and author of Alice’s Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking
Remember, as my mother Alice said, “If you make it with love, it will be delicious!”

all photos and story © linda dalal sawaya 2015