Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a backyard weed that is common in many places around the world. It is also common in many kitchens around the world but not so much in North America.
That’s unfortunate, as this edible weed is not only delicious with its bright, lemony flavor, it is also incredibly good for you.
In this article, we will discuss the many benefits of purslane addition to your diet.
We’ll also provide some information on how to encourage this attractive and hardy little succulent to thrive in your own backyard or even in an indoor planter.
Additionally, we will provide some smart tips to help you get started enjoying purslane as a super-food. Read on to learn more about purslane care and its health benefits.
A Healthy & Versatile Green
It’s hard to understand why purslane has not been continuously popular as a food item in the United States. It is tasty both raw and cooked and can be used to add crunch and zest to salads and sandwiches.
It can also be added to soups, stews and other dishes that call for spinach. It makes a flavorful addition to stir-fries.
Here are a few simple ideas for adding purslane to your daily diet:
Begin with fresh purslane. Growing your own is easy, and you can sometimes purchase purslane at farmers’ markets and even at your local health food market.
If you do, it’s important to remember not to buy too much at a time because it’s best to use purslane quickly.
It loses its nutrient value if it is allowed to age too much. When looking for purslane in your local markets, you may not recognize it because it goes by many names. They are:
- Summer Purslane
- Golden Purseley
- Little Hogweed
Be sure the purslane you purchase is fresh, has been stored refrigerated, and use it as soon as you possibly can.
Why Is Purslane So Healthy?
Additionally, it provides high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which are essential in helping ward off such serious conditions as:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease
- And even cancer
It is important that you get ample amounts of omega-3’s from your diet because your body is unable to produce these essential polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Purslane is especially high in alpha–linolenic acid(ALA) which is found in most plants, but purslane contains much greater amounts than most plants.
For example, it contains 15 times more ALA than iceberg lettuce. In fact, purslane is said to be one of the richest sources of ALA among plants.
ALA is not the only omega-3 fatty acid contained in purslane. Two others are present in abundance. They are:
- Ericosapentaenoic (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic (DHA)
Both of these are usually found in oily fish, aquatic plants and other types of food harvested from the sea.
Being able to get these omega-3’s from purslane is a real boon to good health because scientists have come to understand that it is important for people have an ample supply of all of the omega-3 fatty acids.
Purslane also delivers a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. It contains a greater amount of vitamin E than spinach and seven times as much beta-carotene as carrots.
Other vitamins and minerals that are present in purslane in significant amounts include:
- Vitamin C
A single cup of raw purslane will provide approximately 15% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C and about 11% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A.
Vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin A are powerful antioxidants, which are extremely important because they help scavenge free radicals from your system.
Free radicals are known to contribute to the development of a number of age-related symptoms and diseases ranging from the formation of wrinkles to the development of cancer.
Where Are The Best Places To Get Purslane?
Purslane plants grow abundantly in all kinds of conditions, and you are likely to find it growing nicely in your own backyard during the summer months.
If you don’t have a backyard, it is easy to grow as a container plant or in a small garden.
It does best in rich, well-drained soil that has been recently turned, and naturally if you provide it with rich soil you will get a healthier and more nourishing plant.
When you find it growing in the wild, you will see it configured in a rather flat, circular mat that can be is large as 16 inches across.
The stems are usually reddish, and the succulent leaves are thick, smooth, paddle shaped and bright green. In mid-summer, the plant produces very small yellow flowers.
If you are unable to find wild purslane or you cannot find it in a safe, clean environment where you feel good about harvesting it, you can purchase domestic purslane seeds. There are two varieties:
- Golden Purslane
- Garden Purslane
These domestic varieties do not grow in large, flat mat configurations. Instead, they grow upright. Their leaves are bit larger than wild purslane, and they are a bit more tender and tastier.
When you grow your own purslane you can be certain that the plants are not contaminated in any way and it is easier to harvest them.
Common purslane is easy to grow. You can plant it outdoors in your vegetable garden or in a container.
You can also keep a small pot of purslane growing on your kitchen windowsill if you will not use very much of it. When you do this, you can grow purslane or portulaca plants as a micro green.
You just need a good planting container, some organic potting soil and organic purslane seeds.
Follow the directions on the seed packet to sow the seeds in the soil and keep the soil surface lightly moist. Don’t water too much as this can kill your purslane plant.
You can purchase seeds on Amazon.com or from specialized online nurseries such as Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Territorial Seed, and Nichols Garden Nursery.
Simple Preparation Tips
To prepare purslane, you should remove the thicker stems. All of the leaves are edible and tasty, and the thinner stems are also good to eat.
The thicker stems may be a little bit tough. You should rinse the purslane very well with fresh water. You may also wish to add a little white vinegar for extra cleaning power.
As mentioned, you can certainly enjoy purslane raw in green salads, but you can also get creative and add it to potato salad or pasta salads. It’s also nice simply tossed with chunks of red bell pepper, olive oil and lemon juice to taste.
You can even use it as the main ingredient when making pesto. Combine it with basil about half-and-half with some pine nuts, garlic and just a little olive oil. Purslane has a lot of juice, so you can reduce the amount of oil and still get great flavor and consistency.
Purslane is an excellent complement to pork dishes and also to fish.
You can sauté purslane leaves with a little onion and bell pepper and add three beaten eggs and cheese to create your own version of a Denver omelette. It’s also great simply added to scrambled eggs.
If you’re making pizza, try adding purslane to the topping. It also makes an excellent addition to salsa and pasta sauces.
You can make some excellent green purslane smoothies. Its lemony taste makes it a good addition to smoothies containing any tropical fruit, peaches, blueberries, cucumber or really just about any other fresh produce you can imagine.
Is There Any Downside to Using Purslane?
It is not good for you to eat excessive amounts of purslane any more than it is good for you to eat excessive amounts of any food.
Purslane does contain a great deal of oxalic acid, and this can cause problems for people who have a tendency to develop calcium oxalate kidney stones.
People who have been advised by their doctor to limit consumption of foods containing oxalates may want to limit or refrain from eating purslane.
This might be true for those who have conditions such as enteric hyperoxaluria or primary hyperoxaluria.
Pregnant women should also avoid eating purslane because it might tend to promote uterine contractions leading to miscarriage.
Don’t let these “downsides” frighten you. It is easy to see that they are small and specific. Overall, adding purslane to your diet is an entirely positive, smart and thrifty decision!