How to Identify Purslane: A Nutritious and Edible Weed

Updated on December 2, 2019
joanhall profile image

Joan lives in Los Angeles, where she is an expert on edible weeds.

This article will help you identify purslane and will also provide some recipes for how best to cook this edible wild plant.
This article will help you identify purslane and will also provide some recipes for how best to cook this edible wild plant. | Source

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 article will provide purslane facts and recipes to bolster your appreciation of this virtuous wild plant.

Purslane photographed on a sidewalk in Lynwood.
Purslane photographed on a sidewalk in Lynwood. | Source

Getting Acquainted With Purslane

The binomial name for purslane is Portulaca oleracea. Portulaca is Latin, coming from portula, which means "gate," in reference to the gate-like covering of the seed capsule. Oleracea is also Latin and means "kitchen vegetable."

The Spanish name for purslane is verdolaga, while another English name for it is "pigweed."

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.

How do you identify purslane?

Purslane tends to grow close to the ground in dense patches that spread wide.

Take a look at the pictures below for visual cues.

How to Identify Purslane

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Purslane flowers are small and yellow.Purslane seeds are tiny, black, and round. Purslane plants have smooth, round, reddish stems and an abundance of fleshy, oval-shaped leaves.
Purslane flowers are small and yellow.
Purslane flowers are small and yellow. | Source
Purslane seeds are tiny, black, and round.
Purslane seeds are tiny, black, and round. | Source
Purslane plants have smooth, round, reddish stems and an abundance of fleshy, oval-shaped leaves.
Purslane plants have smooth, round, reddish stems and an abundance of fleshy, oval-shaped leaves. | Source

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 they 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 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.)

Nutritional Information About Purslane

There is a nutritional information page on purslane at NutritionData.com. It reads:

"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 purslane 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.

Eating Purslane

The leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds of the purslane plant are all edible, but 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. Though I've never tried it cooked, 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. It is also recommended for stir-frying.

In Spanish, purslane is called verdolaga, and I saw several Mexican recipes that used it as an ingredient. I also 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:

For a whole host of additional purslane recipes—including pickled purslane and verdolago con queso—check out this horticulture page at Texas A&M University.

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.

Additional Fun Facts About Purslane

  • Henry David Thoreau talks about having purslane for dinner in Walden.
  • In the Ultimate Guide to U.S. Army Survival Skills, Tactics, and Techniques, the U.S. Army mentions purslane in their chapter on "Survival Use of Plants."

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

  • Can the purslane flowers be a deep pink?

    There is a plant called pink purslane, but it is a different species than the P. oleracea.

  • How do you use purslane?

    It is generally used as a raw vegetable or a cooked vegetable. I love it in salads.

  • What is the phosphorus content of purslane?

    A source I looked at says that there is 18.9 mg of phosphorus in a 1 cup serving of purslane. (http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and...

  • Is purslane soporific? In Saudi Arabia I grew "rejleh", and relied on it as a sleep aid. We made a soup from it. Delicious! I'm sure that "rejleh" is a regional name for purslane, or portulaca.

    There are some herbal guides that say purslane has soporific qualities.

  • I bought purslane at Lowe’s and it has pink, red, and salmon colored flowers. Is it edible?

    I googled "purslane at Lowe's", and the first entry I saw on the Lowe's website said that their purslane is "related to portulaca". I would think that if they say it is related, that means that it is not actual portulaca. So I would consider it an unknown plant and I would not try to eat it. You might be able to contact Lowe's and find out the actual binomial (Latin) name of the purslane they are selling. Once you know the Latin name, you can look up the plant that way and find out for certain.

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    • profile image

      RN 

      6 months ago

      Thanks for the informative video. I live in Mexico where verdalaga (purslane) is a common food item. I have a lot of it in my garden, and it's time to harvest.

    • profile image

      Sima Taba 

      15 months ago

      My aunt just re introduce this plant to us as she had been eating and saw many benefits from it. We have plenty available in Southern Ontario, Canada and I am right now eating some with my lettuce salad.

    • profile image

      Turkish Guy 

      20 months ago

      Oh god, not purslane

      Its disgusting taste has haunted me since my childhood...

    • profile image

      Crafty Mummsley 

      21 months ago

      It is believed that the Ancient Egyptians ate Purslane 1000's of years ago in salads

    • profile image

      haitham salman 

      2 years ago

      in SYRIA it is called Bakleh and is used in Fattoush and salad .It can be added as it is to yougort . It is beleived to be very healthy especialy for stomack

      problems .

    • profile image

      ra 

      2 years ago

      The seeds are used as decoration in berenji, which is an iranian sweet/biscuit. Purslane or khorfe is used in cucumber salad or with other greens as a sidedish , but mostly in the south of iran. I haven't Seen much of a regular consumption in other parts of the country although it grows all over. It's known to cleanse liver and I myself use the dried and powdered leaf and stem in yogurt to accompany dinner whenever I remember.

    • profile image

      Ricardo 

      2 years ago

      Here in Portugal we eat as well this plant and actually farmers do plantations of it.

    • profile image

      Nawal 

      3 years ago

      Purslane is a very common ingredient in Lebanese cuisine other than fatoush a national salad it is used with many other summer salads, us Lebanese also make pours,and pies instead of spinach we use purslane, add sumac and onions, it is very tasty and healthy. After moving to the US I missed purslane so much, I couldn't find the seeds anywhere which eventually I found online and ordered the seeds from the UK, I planted them in planters. I now have two big planters ready to be cut and eaten. Tasty and yummy!

    • profile image

      gosala 

      3 years ago

      purslane is found in indian cooking too. we cook it with dhall or lentils. very delicious.

    • profile image

      Sherryloom 

      4 years ago

      Yum, My grandma used to find this and feed it to us. I remember loving it like I do swiss chard. Can't find much around here, but I can order seeds. Thanks for the info!

    • TapIn2U profile image

      TapIn2U 

      5 years ago

      I DO have this in my garden!! Wow - tasty too. Fantastic lens! Sundae ;-)

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 

      7 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I'm so happy to see this page here! All summer long my friends were talking about purslane... and I didn't know what it was. Then Lisa offered to bring me a salad which had purslane leaves in it. That was one of the best salads I ever had - I think it was mainly purslane and bean sprouts, with a dressing of sesame oil and liquid aminos. Wow... I was so amazed! Now I'm looking forward to finding purslane in my own garden next year. I love that you're writing about edible wild plants in your area. If the food system breaks down, this information could save lives! Blessed! Thanks so much.

    • profile image

      browndog21 

      7 years ago

      Are you kidding me? Someone wants to eat this?! I'll make you a deal you can have all you can pull out of my vegetable and flowers gardens for free and I'll throw in free cucumbers and tomatoes as well!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      purslane is eaten in fatoosh and salad in Lebanon, it is a very common herb in Lebanon.

    • profile image

      Rickcpl 

      7 years ago

      scary...

    • xanthoria24 profile image

      xanthoria24 

      7 years ago

      I hadn't heard that it might be native. People might also confuse it with Tribulus terrestris (puncture vine), though I would think they wouldn't try to eat that, or Chamaesyce spp., which is where they seem to have moved Euphorbia maculata in some places.

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 

      7 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      It was growing in my yard and I transplanted it to pots. I'm used to just breaking a piece off and eating it, and at the end of last summer, it was tasting real sweet and had a different texture. When I looked it was full of aphids, so I got some extra protein. Your lens is excellent. Thanks

    • RawBill1 profile image

      Bill 

      8 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      years ago, back before I was into wild edibles I had purslane growing all over my yard and I used to spray it or pull it out of the cracks in the path. Nowadays that I know better, I do not have it growing wild so I had to buy the seeds and plant it. Funny how life works sometimes!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      8 years ago

      @Sylvestermouse: It is soo easy to tell the diff. between spurge and purslane. Surge grows closer to the ground and it is just smaller. thinner stems. smaller leaves. if you break a stem it leaks white sap.

      Purslane is larger, has a thicker stem, larger leaves and has no white sap. The leaves taste like lettuce and the stem is a little tangy.

      Usually purslane and spurge grow near to one another which makes it easier to identify for the first time. Once you have identified it, it becomes as simple as telling a head of lettuce from a head of cabbage.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      8 years ago

      I eat purslane. The leaves taste like more like lettuce and the stem is a bit tangy.

    • profile image

      quicpost 

      8 years ago

      Great article and I especially like the spurge that you've pointed out!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      8 years ago

      Now I know I saw this growing in my sister's flower garden. I thought it was beautiful and asked what it was but she didn't know other than it is a weed she loves and welcomes in her flower gardens and has even put them in pot arrangements. It is very easy care. Now to find out its good to eat, I can't wait to tell her about it. I love this series of yours.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      9 years ago

      great site!! loved this purslane page

    • joanhall profile imageAUTHOR

      Joan Hall 

      9 years ago from Los Angeles

      @dc64 lm: So glad to hear it! Enjoy!

    • dc64 lm profile image

      dc64 lm 

      9 years ago

      I've found lots of wood sorrell growing near my yard after looking at that site of yours, and now I'm on the hunt for purslane. These edible weeds sites are great!

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      10 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Ah, you beat me to it. I was going to do a lens on this. But I'm keeping busy with other lenses, and you did a great job with this.

    • AlishaV profile image

      Alisha Vargas 

      10 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      I need to start paying more attention to weeds, I'm sure I've seen this one before. I love the idea of urban foraging and have heard a lot about how great purslane is. Great lens!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      10 years ago from United States

      I think identifying it would be the hardest part for me. I would hate to make my whole family sick. However, give me a guide, as you have, and I am game! Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      10 years ago

      Interesting information about purslane.

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