Did you know that you can turn a common garden weed, purslane, into a central Mexican pork stew? This recipe does just that! Pork ribs in salsa verde with purslane (costillas de puerco en salsa verde con verdolagas in Spanish) is a delicious way to put that common garden weed to good use!
What is purslane?
Purslane (verdolaga in Spanish) is also known as duckweed, little hogweed, or pursley. The latin name is portulaca oleracea. The plant is an annual succulent, with flat, fleshy green leaves that have a delicious crunch and slightly, salty taste. The stems can range from green to reddish in color. Often considered a weed, this plant is hardy and not picky about soil conditions or nutrients.
Take care if you are foraging purslane. A plant called spotted or prostrate spurge (euphorbia maculata) looks very similar to purslane but is poisonous if consumed. Spotted spurge oozes a milky substance if the leaves or stems are broken. Other spurge species can have slightly hairy leaves. Edible purslane leaves are smooth (not hairy) and contain no harmful, milky sap.
Purslane is known to contain vitamin A and C as well as magnesium, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.
Where to find purslane
In Mexico, this plant can be found in the wild, growing near rivers in humid soil or along the side of the road, in less optimal soil conditions. I get my verdolagas from the local market, where they sell them by the bunch.
The USDA website indicates that purslane is found in the lower 48 states of the US, Hawaii, Canada, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. In the US, this plant can be found sprouting out of sidewalk cracks, in vegetable gardens, and in gravel. And in recent years has found its way to local farmer’s markets and high-end restaurants. Purslane has been eaten in many cultures all over the world but seems to only recently have begun to gain popularity with the US consumer.
How to eat purslane
Purslane can be eaten raw in salads, sautéed for a quick side dish, boiled and then scrambled with eggs, or cooked in soups or stews.
How to make porks ribs in salsa verde with purslane
Get the salsa going
Start the salsa by putting the tomatillos, onions, garlic, and chiles in a pot with water and bringing to a simmer. The tomatillos and peppers will change from a bright green color to a dull green and soften as they cook (see below photos for reference). The salsa will take between 15 and 20 minutes which is why I start this first and work on browning the pork ribs while the salsa cooks. Once the salsa ingredients soften and change color, remove them to a blender and blend until smooth.
Brown the pork ribs
Work on this step when the ingredients for the salsa are cooking to save time! Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with a bit of vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, place the seasoned pork ribs in the pan and allow them to sit undisturbed for a few minutes. This will allow the ribs to brown. Turn the ribs occasionally so that they brown on all sides. Set them aside on a plate once they are finished. You may need to work in batches, depending on the size of your skillet.
Putting it all together
Once the salsa is blended and the pork ribs are browned, you are ready to put everything together! Start by heating a large pot over low heat. I usually use a cazuela or my wide, shallow pan (the same one I use for Authentic Mexican Red Rice) for this step. Place the salsa and broth in the pan and add salt to taste. Add the fava beans (if using) and the purslane. Mix everything to blend. Next, place the ribs in the sauce and allow them to simmer for 15-20 minutes partially covered, or until they are cooked through. I like the consistency of the sauce to be relatively liquid, but you could cook off more liquid for a thicker consistency if desired.
Now, instead of throwing out that common garden weed, you can use it as a delicious and healthy herb! Let me know if you like this version of Pork Ribs with Salsa Verde and Purslane in the comments below!
Pork Ribs with Salsa Verde and Purslane
- 2.5 lbs tomatillos (about 1 kg)
- 2 serrano peppers
- 1 large white onion, quartered (about 12 oz or 340g)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil I use safflower oil
- 3 lbs bone-in meaty pork ribs (about 10 ribs, 1.5 kgs)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 5 cups purslane, leaves and tender stems only
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1-1.5 cups cooked fava beans optional
- Place tomatillos, peppers, onions and garlic in a pot and cover with water. Heat over medium-high heat and simmer partially covered until tomatillos have changed color from a bright green to a dull green and have softened, about 15-20 minutes.
- Remove vegetables from water and blend in a blender until smooth, about 30-60 seconds
- Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat
- Season ribs with salt and pepper
- Once oil is hot, add ribs in batches and turn to brown evenly, about 3-4 minutes per side or 12-16 minutes total per rib
- Place salsa and broth in a dutch oven or other wide pan and heat over low heat. Add salt to taste
- Add the purslane and fava beans (if using) and stir to incorporate
- Add the ribs to the sauce and allow to simmer an additional 15-20 minutes partially covered.
- Divide among serving plates and enjoy warm