Purslane, a weed whose Latin name is portulaca oleracea, could be growing in your garden right now, and without your explicit invitation. First cultivated in India and Persia, quickly spreading to the rest of the world. In some parts of the world, it gets pulled up and thrown out with the leaf clippings and other weeds, while some cultures grow it specifically as a food source. Purslane is a very attractive weed with fleshy leaves and yellow flowers, and its health benefits make it worth growing in your own gardens.
The seeds of the purslane plant are so powerful they can remain viable in the soil for as much as 40 years. This would be considered a natural – even an heirloom – crop. No genetic modifications here! Purslane grows equally as well in well tended gardens and in crappy soils, arid climates and even in containers! The benefits to us humans is that it supports our immune systems and benefits our overall health.
Commonly known as “pig weed,” and frequently used for swine forage, purslane contains as much Omega 3’s as most fish oil products. It also contains an extremely high level of vitamin A; one of the highest of all of the green leafy veggies. Vitamin A is vital for maintaining eye health as well as protecting us from many forms of cancer.
Purslane is also full of a couple of very potent antioxidants, rich in vitamin C and B-complex, niacin, carotenoids and minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium.
One would think that, considering all of these wonderful nutritional benefits, purslane would enjoy a more popular status than as a common weed. This healthy food is a nutritional powerhouse.
While purslane is relatively easy to grow, the hardest part about growing purslane is locating it. Once you have made the decision to grow purslane, you may find that although you have been pulling it out of your flower beds for years, it has suddenly vanished. Once you do find a purslane plant, harvest some seeds or trim off some stems for starts.
All purslane needs to grow is part to full sun and clear ground. They are not picky about soil type or nutrition, although purslane grows better in drier soil.
If you decide to plant purslane seeds, simply scatter the seeds over the area that you plan on growing the purslane. Do not cover the seeds with soil. Purslane seeds need light to germinate so they must stay on the soil’s surface.
If you are using cuttings, lay them on the ground where you plan on growing purslane. Water the stems and they should take root in the soil in a few days.
Cultivation of purslane is very simple after it starts growing. You don’t need to do anything. The same traits that make it a weed also makes it an easy to care for herb.
Make sure to harvest it regularly and be aware that it can become invasive. Harvesting before it develops flowers will help cut down on its spreading.
Also, keep in mind that purslane herb is an annual. While the chances are high that it will reseed itself, you may want to collect some seeds at the end of the season so that you have some on hand for next year, rather than having to go hunt for a new purslane plant. In the event that you choose to forage for wild purslane rather than growing it, make sure that you only take purslane that has not been treated with toxic chemicals.
Kris D’Arcy, writer of the food blog, You Are What You Eat, brings us this super yummy way to use purslane: potato salad. This recipe uses a vinaigrette dressing and it is very tasty. If you’ve got a rush of radishes, they are also very tasty sliced into this salad. The crunch adds a lovely texture.
Add the salad dressing in a bit at a time to figure out exactly how much you’re going to want or need. Any that’s left over will be good on a green or pasta salad.
6 small to medium redskin potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled
2 cups washed purslane leaves
4 scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup olive oil
2 T. lemon juice (or more, to taste)
2 T. red wine vinegar (or more,to taste)
garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. dry tarragon
1/2 to 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cook the potatoes with their skins on until just tender. Drain and plunge into cold water. Let cool. Peel and cut into slices, chunks, or dice, as you prefer.
Chop purslane coarsely. Add purslane and scallions to potatoes.
Mix dressing ingredients until emulsified (I like to shake them in a jar). Pour over salad until it looks and tastes right. Chill. If the salad sits around in the fridge for a while before serving, you may need to add a little more dressing just at serving time so it’s moist enough.