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Growing up my mother always had portulaca in her gardens. Pink and yellow flowers, low growing, graced her garden bed edges. I remember harvesting seeds for the next year. Little did I know how edible and nutritious this little beauty is.

Purslane, portulaca oleracea, is often pulled out as a weed. Yet, folks from across the sea have been eating this hardy annual for centuries. Prolific, its watery stems can withstand drought, dry weather conditions.

Purslane is not native to North America. It originated in India and Persia where it has been eaten for over two thousand years. Today it is growing in many parts of the world and can be found in America from coast to coast.

Purslane is low growing, maybe one foot long by 1-2 inches high. It looks like a succulent, its leaves and stems very mucilaginous. Small yellow flowers grow near the last leaves and only bloom for a short period of time.

For foraging purposes I am focusing on common purslane, also known as green purslane, portulaca oleracea.

Whole plant can be eaten. However in the spring, the tender tips are sought as a salad green. The above video gives a great recipe for a purslane slaw. When the tips are pinched off, new growth easily replaces those taken.

Older stems can be used as a pot herb. Steam with dandelion greens for example. These can also be frozen for adding to winter soups and stews. Thicker stems gone to seed can be pickled.

Euell Gibbons, Stalking the Wild Asparagus: offers an easy, no cook recipe for purslane pickles.

Recipe: Stir together:

1 cup white vinegar

2 cups cold water

1/4 cup salt

1/2 teaspoon alum

In bottom of jar place a flower of dill, a clove of garlic, and a small red pepper. Then pack jars but not too tightly with purslane stems. Place in a dark place and leave for at least one month before using.

Nutrition Facts: Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid in particular[4]) than any other leafy vegetable plant. Studies have found that Purslane has 0.01 mg/g ofeicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This is an extraordinary amount of EPA for a land-based vegetable source. EPA is an Omega-3 fatty acid found mostly in fish, some algae, and flax seeds.[5] It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin Avitamin CVitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)[6] and some vitamin B and carotenoids), as well as dietary minerals, such as magnesiumcalciumpotassium, and iron.”

It’s interesting to me that many of our so called weeds have a culinary use. Foragers in particular know plant ID and how to cook and store these edibles found in meadows, near hiking trails, or those that always pop up near gardens. The above video helps you ID this plant in your garden. Remember only eat that which you have properly identified.

There are other portulacas. Seeds are easily available.



Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN, Writer, Speaker, Holistic Health Consultant and Workshop Presenter, Master Gardener. 

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