Can anybody tell this non-gardener (hopeless!) what this is? It suddenly showed up in the area on the side of my house that I don't have anything growing in. I'm guessing a bird left a seed but honestly, I don't water there yet it just keeps growing. Is this some sort of succulent or just a weed? You'll help settle a family bet. :) I'm in central California, zone 9. Thanks! (I hope the pics attached!)
It is both, it is Portulaca oleracea.
I consider it as a weed, and I remove it from my vegetable garden. It has shallow roots, so it is easy to remove.
So you can imagine my surprise when my sister gave me a seed packing (I like strange plants), with such plant. On some places it is considered a vegetable, so it is planted/seeded in vegetable gardens. It seems that it taste better if you harvest in the morning, and much different if you harvest it in the evening: like many succulent plants, they have special metabolism: they will not keep stomata open during day, so they will accumulate chemicals during day, and complete the metabolic process during night. In this manner they will lose much less water then usual plants. But so the plant taste differently in the morning and in afternoon.
I never ate it. For me it is a weed. I seeded it on a pot far from the vegetable garden, and it looks like as my weeds.
I have enjoyed it for years, stir-fried like collard greens with a little butter, salt, and lemon.
A few years ago I asked a newly opened organic farm/farm stand if I could "weed" their field for it. They said, "Sure." The next year I was told I'd have to pay for it as they had begun selling their "weeds" (along with Lamb's Quarter), and they'd found the market for them to be robust.
NOTE that some sources caution about a toxic lookalike, but I have never run into it.
It is definitely worth trying.
In Portugal it is known as "Beldroegra" and can be weed or cultivated. In India it is wild, and consumed for thousands of years. It is grown in the Middle East and in part of France. It is rich in fatty acids (especially omega-3), protein (20-40% dry weight) and minerals, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. It also contains vitamins A, E, B and C and beta carotene, which are good antioxidants.
Culinary Uses- Eaten raw in salads or cooked in soups with goat cheese, breadcrumbs, omelets, tortillas or simply cooked as spinach.
Hope this helps