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Montana Ag Network: weeds on the dinner menu?

“I don’t call it a weed, I call it a vegetable,” said Alba Jeffries.
Posted at 11:12 AM, Dec 21, 2023

BOZEMAN — When people think of pesky weeds, they usually want to break out the herbicide and get to work—but Montana State University researchers are asking, “Why not just eat them?"

“I don’t call it a weed, I call it a vegetable,” said Alba Jeffries.

Jeffries owns La Tinga Mexican restaurant in Bozeman which was chosen to participate in an experiment conducted by MSU professors to cook with purslane.

Purslane is a common weed that many farmers spend time trying to get rid of here in Montana. But where Jeffries is from, they just eat it.

“I’m from Mexico City, and over there at least once a week we cook with Purslane,” said Jeffries. “You can buy it at any store in Mexico City."

Roland Ebel, an agro-ecologist and professor in MSU’s Department of Health and Human Development, wants to make that the case here too.

“Most farmers don’t know what precious plants are growing on their farms as weeds,” said Ebel. “We want to educate them.”

Ebel says establishing a market for edible weeds like purslane would create new revenue streams for farmers.

“But it’s also going to benefit consumers of course by diversifying our diets here in Montana,” said Ebel.

Ebel and his team’s experiment took place on December 15 and 16 at La Tinga, where customers were served two dishes containing purslane.

“I was so excited because it took me back to my childhood,” said Jeffries. “We grew up eating purslane—it tastes a little citrusy, it’s very delicious and fresh.”

Ebel says the results from their survey showed over 80 percent of customers who ate dishes containing purslane thought the same thing: “Which I find amazing,” said Ebel.

But the work is far from over.

In the future, MSU’s research team plans on partnering with other Bozeman restaurants to expand their studies on purslane and other edible weeds.

But to Jeffries, it’s just a delicious vegetable and she plans to keep these dishes containing purslane on the menu at La Tinga.

 “Yes,” she said. “Absolutely, yes.”