Purslane: A Nutritious and Edible Weed
Purslane (part of "Edible Weeds in Los Angeles")
The minute you look at purslane, you can tell that it wants you to eat it. The plump leaves and stems give an obvious invitation. It's a sturdy one, growing in huge patches at the edges of yards and sidewalks, a treasure to urban foragers.
This web page brings you purslane facts and purslane recipes to bolster your appreciation of this virtuous wild plant.
Getting acquainted with purslane
Purslane - Portulaca oleracea
The binomial name for purslane is Portulaca oleracea.
Portulaca is Latin, coming from portula, which means "gate", in reference to the gatelike covering of the seed capsule. Oleracea is Latin also and means "kitchen vegetable".
Another English name for purslane is "pigweed".
The Spanish name for purslane is "verdolaga".
There is controversy about whether purslane is native to North America or was carried over, but some research suggests that the American Indians were eating it before they made contact with Europeans.
Purslane plants have smooth, round, reddish stems and an abundance of fleshy, oval-shaped leaves.
Purslane tends to grow close to the ground in dense patches that spread wide.
Purslane flowers are small and yellow.
Purslane seeds are tiny, black, and round. Do you see them?
Beware of spurge!
Prostrate spurge (Euphorbia maculata) is another weed that somewhat resembles purslane, but it's toxic (it won't kill you, but it can make you ill).
Spurge has a similar growing pattern (low on the ground), but the leaves are thinner and smaller and sometimes have a spot of reddish coloring at the center of the leaf. The stems of the spurge are hairy and the flowers look different.
The foolproof way to differentiate between the two is by breaking a stem. The stem of the spurge oozes a milky white sap. IF THERE IS A WHITE SAP, IT IS NOT PURSLANE!
Photos of spurge can be seen at Wikimedia Commons (I avoid putting images of other plants on my weed pages because I wouldn't want a picture of spurge to show up in a Google search for purslane).
Purslane video - From the "Eat the Weeds" series
Here's Green Deane's installment on purslane.
Nutritional info about purslane
There is a nutritional info page on purslane at NutritionData.com.
They say: "This food is very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6 and Folate, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese."
One of the things everybody talks about is the fact that Portulaca oleracea has more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy plant known on earth.
This report from The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health tells in depth about the nutritional benefits of purslane and other wild plants: Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Antioxidants in Edible Wild Plants
The leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds of the purslane plant are all edible. I've only eaten the stems and leaves myself. They have a slightly sour edge (not as strong as wood sorrel) and a hint of a mucilaginous quality (not as strong as mallows). Purslane is terrific as part of a salad.
They say that the mucilaginous quality becomes more pronounced when it is cooked, so it is sometimes added as a thickener in soups and stews. I've never tried it cooked.
Purslane is also recommended for stir-frying. I've never tried that either, but it sounds delicious.
In Spanish, purslane is called verdolaga and I saw several Mexican recipes that used it as an ingredient.
And I just discovered that purslane is call khorfeh in Iran, and is featured in Persian dishes.
And reader Wafeek informs us that purslane is used in a Lebanese dish called fatoosh.
Here are some purslane recipes I found:
Domatesli semizotu (purslane with tomato), a Turkish dish
Texas A&M University shares purslane recipes, including pickled purslane and Verdolago con Queso.
Prodigalgardens.info has a set of purslane recipes including purslane pasta and purslane gazpacho.
Henry David Thoreau talks about having purslane for dinner in Walden!
And the U. S. Department of the Army, in their "Ultimate Guide to U.S. Army Survival Skills, Tactics, and Techniques" mentions purslane in their chapter on "Survival Use of Plants."
Purslane cooking video
A wild shirtless guy makes fried purslane for dinner.
Medicinal uses of purslane
Purslane is regarded as a cooling herb and is suggested for help with fevers and inflammatory conditions.
Some recommended it for skin problems, similar to the use of aloe vera.