Purslane: A Nutritious and Edible Weed

Updated on April 7, 2016
Purslane photographed on a sidewalk in Lynwood.
Purslane photographed on a sidewalk in Lynwood. | Source

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.

Source

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.

I pulled this stem of purslane from a schoolyard in Lynwood.
I pulled this stem of purslane from a schoolyard in Lynwood. | Source

Identifying purslane

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

Purslane flowers are small and yellow.

Source

Purslane seeds are tiny, black, and round. Do you see them?

Photographed on a sidewalk in Lynwood.
Photographed on a sidewalk in Lynwood. | 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 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.

Photographed on a sidewalk in Lynwood.
Photographed on a sidewalk in Lynwood.

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

This purslane was growing in a planter outside of a McDonald's in Carson. Who knows what pesticides they might be using there, so I wouldn't eat that plant, but it's still more nutritious than any of the food being served inside the McDonald's.
This purslane was growing in a planter outside of a McDonald's in Carson. Who knows what pesticides they might be using there, so I wouldn't eat that plant, but it's still more nutritious than any of the food being served inside the McDonald's. | Source

Eating purslane

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:

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.

Questions & Answers

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    • profile image

      Sima Taba 

      6 weeks 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 

      6 months ago

      Oh god, not purslane

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

    • profile image

      Crafty Mummsley 

      7 months ago

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

    • profile image

      haitham salman 

      11 months 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 

      12 months 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 

      17 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Nawal 

      2 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 

      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Sherryloom 

      3 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 

      4 years ago

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

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 

      5 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 

      6 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 

      6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Rickcpl 

      6 years ago

      scary...

    • xanthoria24 profile image

      xanthoria24 

      6 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 

      6 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 

      6 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 

      7 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 

      7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      quicpost 

      7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 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 

      8 years ago

      great site!! loved this purslane page

    • dc64 lm profile image

      dc64 lm 

      8 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!

    • joanhall profile imageAUTHOR

      Joan Hall 

      8 years ago from Los Angeles

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

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      9 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 

      9 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 

      9 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 

      9 years ago

      Interesting information about purslane.

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