Recently I bought some Purslane plants from the local Lowes. I thought they were about the prettiest flowering plants I’ve ever seen, so I planted them in an old solar powered water fall that quit working. I didn’t want to throw the thing away, and decided I would re-purpose it into a planter. The thing I did not know is, that this is an edible plant!
Purslane, also known as Portulaca oleracea, is considered a common weed to many that may even be growing in your garden right now, without your explicit invitation. It started its cultivation in India and Persia, and spread to the rest of the world. Some cultures pluck it out and throw it away with leaf clippings and other weeds, while others cultivate it specifically to eat as food. Purslane is an aesthetically attractive weed with fleshy leaves and often yellow flowers, but its health benefits are even more desirable.
The seeds of purslane are so powerful they can stay viable in land for up to 40 years – and this is a natural crop – no GMO! It grows in a well-tended garden and in arid climates, often equally as well. This resilient plant poses similar benefits for our immune systems and overall health.
Often called pig weed (and it certainly would be better for your pigs than some of the GMO grain many farmers have been using to feed their livestock), Purslane has more beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids than many fish oils! The weed also has one of the highest levels of vitamin A among all leafy green vegetables (1320 IU/100 g, provides 44% of RDA). High Vitamin A foods can help protect us from many types of cancers and helps to boost eye health.
Also in purslane are vitamins C, and B-complex including riboflavin, pyridoxine, and niacin, as well as carotenoids, and trace minerals like iron, magnesium, and calcium.
Furthermore, purslane is full of two different types of betalain alkaloid pigments – a reddish beta-cyanis and a yellow beta-xanthins, which are equally potent antioxidants and anti-mutagens.
Think of it as a weed, and you’ll be missing out on one of the most nutritious greens on the planet. Purslane has more beta-carotene than spinach*, as well as high levels of magnesium and potassium. Historically it has been used as a remedy for arthritis and inflammation by European cultures. Chinese herbalists found similar benefits, using it in respiratory and circulatory function. Recently, it’s been found that purslane has alpha linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Researchers see evidence that these substances lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as make the blood less likely to form clots. And, purslane has only 15 calories per 100 g portion.
World wide there are approximately 19 genera and approximately 500 species of purslane. The U.S. is home to 9 genera alone. It is most commonly found in the warm temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Purslane exhibits the most species diversity in Western North America and South Africa, where it is likely to have originated. Part of the reason for its evolutionary success is that a single plant can produce up to 52,300 seeds. Several ancient cultures have included purslane as a part of their cuisine, including those of Greece and Central America. Russians dry and can it for the winter. In Mexico it is called verdolaga and is a favorite comfort food. There, it is eaten in omelets, as a side dish, rolled in tortillas, or dropped by handfuls into soups and stews.
With all these nutritional benefits, and the large amounts of money we spend on supplements to better our health, it seems purslane should be elevated from weed status to health-boosting, everyday food. Purslane packs a powerful nutritional punch, for certain.
Best if used fresh. But, if you must store it, wrap purslane in a moist paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator.
Wash. Remove larger stems. Some recipes use leaves only. Purslane can be substituted for spinach or wild greens in lasagnas, filled pastas, and Greek-style tarts.
IMPORTANT: a similar plant named “hairy-stemmed spurge” is poisonous. Click here for more information.
Similar plants: Hairy-Stemmed Spurge, which is poisonous. Click here for more information. .