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Despite we Stay for Sept 5, 2013

by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO — In the past eight years I have only seen smatterings of this weed in our landscape. However, since the recent rains that have chased away the drought, we’ve had an explosion of this squishy ground cover. It’s everywhere, and it’s kind of spongy when you walk on it. The grasshoppers won’t eat it. Neither will the horses. That is kind of weird, because I’ve been told it’s delicious. This is from my neighbor, who sometimes eats scrambled eggs with grasshoppers. He’s not starving or anything. He actually LIKES that stuff. So it must taste at least somewhat good – hopefully better than grasshoppers.
As per usual, I looked up this weed on the ever-reliable (NOT) Internet, and to my utter surprise, it is edible. It’s called wild purslane. Personally, I prefer “spongeweed” because it doesn’t look anything like a purse or a lane.
Spongeweed has oval leaves and they are succulent, like a teeny-weeny prickly-pear cactus with no pricklies. What used to be our front yard is now a spongeweed farm. We tried to demonstrate our superiority over the plant kingdom by mowing it. Warning: I am a trained professional on a closed course. Do NOT attempt this. Spongeweed leaves are full of goo. So when the mower blades hit the plant, it basically vaporizes into a cloud of goo-fog, which ends up on your clothes, your skin and your hair. If you have acres and acres of it, like we do, you might end up causing a hole in the ozone layer or something. And then the EPA is going to discover Huerfano County and we’re all gonna be in very big trouble.
As a side note, there was one rather important warning on the Edible Wild Food web page: A similar plant named “hairy-stemmed spurge” is poisonous. Maybe the horses and grasshoppers know something I don’t. I’m staying away from the stuff, just in case.
There’s not much you can do with spongeweed but watch it grow. Thankfully, it’s green, which is a vast improvement over what our yard looked like in June, after three years of drought. I suppose you could eat it, if you’re brave. Wildman Steve Brill says it came from India, where it was a cultivated crop, and it was Gandhi’s favorite food. Just think of the money you could save on groceries. And it’s so handy. You just walk out the door, pick some and fry it up with onions and taters. Now THAT is green living. Plus, it would give your kids something to hate more than cream of mushroom soup.

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