PURSLANE
Portulaca oleracea
By: DJ

Purslane is found throughout the U.S. It is a garden pest. No matter how much you dig out and throw away you will still have plenty of the pesky little things coming back in no time. Thank Goodness! It is the first vegetable you can harvest each year. It is a great substitute in salads for lettuce, and as you will see farther into this article it has many uses.

Portulaca oleraceais a smooth low growing succulent plant with reddish stems and underside of leaves, alternate leaves. It has small yellow flowers that produce many sand sized black seeds. It often grows in gardens and fields as a weed. Make sure that the Purslane is well washed of dirt and grit (usually best to wash it in a bowl of water). (Careful often this plant is the target of the herbicide in some agricultural operations.)

Varieties of Purslane

Latin Name 

Common Name 

Family 

Synonyms 

Claytonia perfoliata

Miner's lettuce; 
Winter Purslane

Portulacaceae

Claytonia perfoliata.

Claytonia sibirica

Pink Purslane

Portulacaceae

Claytonia alsinoides. C. sibirica.

Euphorbia corollata

Wild spurge; 
White Purslane

Euphorbiaceae

 

Halimione portulacoides

Sea Purslane

Chenopodiaceae

Atriplex portulacoides. 
Obione portulacoides.

Honckenya peploides

Sea sandwort; Ovate-leaved Sea Purslane

Caryophyllaceae

Arenaria peploides.

Ludwigia palustris

Water Purslane

Onagraceae

 

Lythrum portula

Water Purslane

Lythraceae

Peplis portula.

Portulaca oleracea

Green Purslane; Common Purslane; Purslane

Portulacaceae

 

Portulaca oleracea sativa

Golden Purslane; Summer Purslane

Portulacaceae

P. sativa.

Portulaca retusa

Common Purslane; Green Purslane; Purslane

Portulacaceae

 

Sesuvium portulacastrum

Sea Purslane; Shoreline Seapurslane

Aizoaceae

 

Veronica peregrina

Necklace weed; Purslane Speedwell

Scrophulariaceae

 

Habitat: Summer in fields, vacant lots, waste sites; common garden weed.
Uses: Best cooked or in salad. High in iron.

 

Purslane is a succulent plant, so it can store water. This makes it a great water purifier if the local water supply is polluted. The leaves can be used as a juice or the base of a juice to provide a healthy drink.

One thing that makes this plant special is that the fat it does have contains omega-3 fatty acids, which some research indicates is useful in preventing heart attacks. Have you been scorning the plant that could keep your heart? It has also been used to treat arthritis and inflammation.

"I have made a satisfactory dinner off a dish of Purslane which I gathered and boiled. Yet men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not from want of necessaries, but for want of luxuries." - Henry David Thoreau

Purslane is probably one of the best wild edibles I have ever had the chance to try out. Found around the world it was introduced to North America and now grows almost everywhere there are fields, vacant lots, waste areas and family gardens. This is definitely one "weed" that you do not want to pull from your garden but rather promote it's growth and welcome it to your dinner table as it contains high amounts of iron, vitamins A and C, and is high in calcium and phosphorus and is almost totally void of calories. Purslane is not normally cultivated but it is sold in some specialty stores.

Purslane is an annual herb that sprawls along the ground with its fleshy, succulent, highly branched stems. The stems are round and tinted red. The leaves alternate, paddle-shaped (obovate), flat, and alternately arranged. The small flowers are yellow, sessile, and contain five two-lobbed petals. The small seed capsules produce abundant black seeds.

To harvest, clip the young leaf tips from June-September and collect larger stems for pickles. To collect the seeds to be ground into flour, spread the mature plants on a sheet to dry for a couple of weeks. Use a sieve to separate the seeds from the main plant matter and winnow in a light breeze.

Tender stems and leaves can be eaten raw, alone or with other greens. It can also be cooked or pickled. The leaves of Purslane can be frozen or dried and stored in jars for year-round usage.
Purslane, also an excellent source of vitamins A, C and E and the essential amino acids, and contains the potent anti-oxidant glutathione, and  has been described as a power food of the future because of its high nutritive and antioxidant properties. It has been recently identified as an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid. Alpha-linolenic is an omega-3 fatty acid, commonly known as fish oil, that plays an important role in human growth, development and disease prevention.

The shoots are great cooked or in a fresh salad with a slight bitter taste that is not over powering. In fresh salads, simply wash under cool running water (it will be gritty and needs the bath). You can boil the plants for 10 minutes and season with butter and seasonings. Purslane doesn't "cook away" so the volume you begin with is basically what you will have once it is cooked.

 

Clappers

Miners Lettuce

Purslane flour will work with any of your favorite bread, muffin and cookie recipes. Just allow the seed to dry for one week after harvesting and store it in a paper bag. This will keep very well for some time but  always roast the flour if  you plan to mix it with other collected flours or store it over a long period of time. This will help to rid of any little critters that may decide to grow later.

Lamb's quarter, otherwise known as goosefoot, or wild spinach, is one of oldest and most prolific greens, used not only for its spear-shaped leaves but for its small black seeds. Equally venerable as a culinary weed is the pink-stemmed Purslane, a cousin of the bright-flowered but inedible portulaca. At their youngest, in the first breath of spring, the leaves of both pigweed and Purslane are delicious raw. As they grow into adolescence, both need only a quick parboiling to restore tenderness but maintain crispness. If other wild things are near at hand, like leafing poke sprouts, the leaves of dandelions, or the blossoms and leaves of budding nasturtiums, use them too, with sunflower seed dressing.  Recipes below.

Purslane is eaten extensively in soups and salads throughout the Mediterranean area, where the incidence of heart disease is low. The Russians dry and can it for the winter. In Mexico it is called Verdolaga and is a favorite comfort food, eaten in an omelet or as a side dish, rolled in tortillas, or dropped by handfuls into soups and stews.  It is known to the Hopi as peehala and called verdolagas throughout New Mexico

"Medicinal Action and Uses" from Culpepper---It was highly recommended for many complaints. The expressed juice, taken while fresh, was said to be good for strangury, and taken with sugar and honey to afford relief for dry coughs, shortness of breath and immoderate thirst, as well as for external application in inflammation and sores.

It was supposed to cool 'heat in the liver' and to be excellent for 'hot agues,' and all pains in the head 'proceeding from the heat, want of sleep or the frenzy,' and also to stop hemorrhages.
The herb, bruised and applied to the forehead and temple, was said to allay excessive heat, and applied to the eyes to remove inflammation. Culpepper says: 'The herb if placed under the tongue assuayeth thirst. Applied to the gout, it easeth pains thereof, and helps the hardness of the sinews, if it come not of the cramp, or a cold cause.'

The juice, with oil of Roses, was recommended for sore mouths and swollen gums and also to fasten loose teeth. Another authority declared that the distilled water took away pains in the teeth, both Gerard and Turner telling us too, that the leaves eaten raw are good for teeth that are 'set on edge with eating of sharpe and soure things.'

Purslane is being used in several parts of the world in the treatment of burns and trauma; headaches; stomach, intestinal and liver ailments; cough; shortness of breath and arthritis. This plant has been employed as a purgative, cardiac tonic, emollient, muscle relaxant, and in anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory and diuretic treatments.

It has above average values of Vitamins A and C and provides all of these goodies with only 15 calories in a 100-gram portion (as compared with 76 in a boiled potato).

 

RECIPES

PURSLANE SALAD WITH
BABY GREENS AND CABBAGE



Serves 4 to 6

1/2 small green cabbage (1/4 pound), cored and finely shredded
1/4 pound young Purslane
2 cups baby greens or mesclun
4 medium scallions, white part only, thinly sliced and separated into rings
1 large cucumber--peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup small mint leaves

Serve with grilled fish or lamb kebabs and crusty bread.

  1. Soak the cabbage in salted cold water for 30 minutes. Drain and spin-dry in a salad spinner. Trim the Purslane down, leaving only the small sprigs and leaves; you should have about 2 cups. Wash well and spin-dry. Toss the cabbage and Purslane with the mesclun, scallions and cucumber.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk the oil with the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Add the salad and toss to coat. Garnish with the mint and serve.

Cucumber-Purslane-yogurt salad

5 large Cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into quarter-round slices
1/4 pound Purslane, large stems removed, washed and drained well
2 tablespoons each, Fresh chopped mint, cilantro and chervil
4 cups Whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup Virgin olive oil
3 cloves Garlic, puréed with the blade of a knife
2 teaspoon ground Coriander
 kosher Salt and ground Black Pepper

Place the cucumber, Purslane and herbs into a large bowl. In another bowl, stir together the yogurt, olive oil and garlic, coriander and season to taste with salt. Add the yogurt mixture to the vegetables and mix well. Add a pinch of ground black pepper. Taste the dressed cucumber-Purslane salad for seasoning, adding a little more salt if needed. Serve chilled.

MEXICAN PURSLANE STUFFING

This is a home-type dish that is as simple to prepare as "scrambled eggs with..." but much more nutritious. Serve as a side dish, a brunch main dish or as a filling in tortillas and pitas.

1 to 1 pounds fresh Purslane
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 medium-size ripe tomato, chopped (not skinned)
1 SERRANO or jalapeno chile, finely chopped, or freshly cracked black pepper, according to taste
2 to 3 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 egg beaten

  1. Set aside a few raw springs of Purslane for garnish. Steam or blanch the rest until tender-crisp (three to five minutes). Drain thoroughly, transfer to a plate covered with several layers of paper towels and blot dry.

  2. In a large pan, sauté garlic and onion in vegetable oil until soft. Add tomato and chile, and sauté until the mixture becomes sauce-like. Season with soy sauce. (If you aren't using the chile, add freshly ground black pepper.) Sauté until mixture is warm and the flavors marry.

  3. When ready to serve, add the beaten egg to the warm mixture in the pan and mix gently. The egg will bind the mixture loosely but should not harden into scrambled eggs. Garnish plate servings with reserved sprigs.

YIELD: 4 servings
PER SERVING (estimated): 91 calories, 4 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 68 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 68 percent U.S. RDA Vitamin A, 77 percent U.S. RDA Vitamin C.

Purslane with Cheese and Chili Sauce

  1. Pick the tender young leaves and stems, wash well and chop coarsely, then stew - cook (or Microwave) until tender. This recipe calls for one to two cups of cooked Purslane. Do not overcook, Purslane will become very "slippery" if cooked too long. Then, separately, make a chile sauce by heating 3 tablespoons of olive oil and brown 3 tablespoons of flour.

  2. To the browned flour add 2 cups of vegetable broth, 2 tablespoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder. Stir well and simmer for about 10 minutes, if you wish you can thicken the chile sauce with a little cornstarch. After the sauce is ready add the cooked, chopped Purslane (one to two cups), and one cup of grated Monterey Jack or Colby cheese. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes to allow the cheese to melt, then serve at once, Enjoy!

Lamb's Quarter and Purslane Salad

Lamb's quarter, otherwise known as goosefoot, or wild spinach, is one of oldest and most prolific greens, used not only for its spear-shaped leaves but for its small black seeds. Equally venerable as a culinary weed is the pink-stemmed Purslane, a cousin of the bright-flowered but inedible portulaca. At their youngest, in the first breath of spring, the leaves of both pigweed and Purslane are delicious raw. As they grow into adolescence, both need only a quick parboiling to restore tenderness but maintain crispness. If other wild things are near at hand, like leafing poke sprouts, the leaves of dandelions, or the blossoms and leaves of budding nasturtiums, use them too, with sunflower seed dressing.

4 cups each Purslane and lamb's quarter leaves
4 green onions, with tops, chopped
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons wine vinegar, or more as needed
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the Purslane plants and the lamb's quarter leaves separately. If the Purslane is large, chop into 2-inch lengths. Put the Purslane in a saucepan, cover with water, and boil 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Put the wet lamb's quarter leaves and green onions in a skillet, cover tightly, and steam 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the size and age of the leaf. Drain and mix with the Purslane in a salad bowl. Put the sunflower seeds in a blender with the oil and pulverize until chunky. Add the vinegar and season to taste. If dressing is too thick, thin with more vinegar. Pour the dressing over the salad greens.

Serves 4 to 6

Pancakes
1-1/2 cup Purslane flour (see above)
1-1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 scant cup milk
3 tablespoons oil

Mix and pour on hot griddle about a silver dollar's worth of batter. Cook until golden and serve with butter and syrup. Add fresh fruit if you like. My personal favorite is bananas or wild strawberries. Remember to get out all those jellies that you made that didn't quite set up right. This is a great time to show off you pancake syrup making skills!

PICKLED PURSLANE

1 quart Purslane stems and leaves
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 quart apple cider vinegar (or old pickle, jalapeno juice, etc.)
10 peppercorns

Clean the Purslane stems and leaves by rinsing with fresh water. Cut into 1" pieces and place in clean jars with lids. Add the spices and pour the vinegar over the Purslane. Keep this in the refrigerator and wait at least two weeks before using. Serve as a side dish with omelets and sandwiches.

PURSLANE CASSEROLE

Purslane tips (pre-cooked)
1 egg
bread crumbs (enough to make a damp mixture)
1 medium onion (diced)
1 clove garlic (minced)
Salt and pepper

Combine ingredients and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until top is browning.

PURSLANE RATATOUILLE

2 cups chopped Purslane
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 bell pepper
2 cups canned or fresh tomatoes
1-4 oz can of sliced mushrooms
Salt to taste
Sprinkle of garlic powder
Soy sauce (optional)

Cook Purslane, onion and pepper until tender. Add remaining ingredients and simmer a few minutes. Rice can be added to the mixture if desired and cooked for 20-40 minutes.

Tips

Also be sure to try out Purslane as a batter-dipped fried companion to your other wild fritters such as dandelion, morel and daylilies. Simply dip in an egg/milk mixture and roll in flour and spices. Deep fry in your favorite oil and serve hot.

You can also blanch the leaf tips and freeze for latter use. I have found that it keeps well and makes a good addition to my soups and stews. This is a good idea if you have an "anti-greens" family since they will never know that they are receiving such a high vitamin wild veggie hidden in their favorite stew.

Copyright DJ 2000
No reprint or republication without express permission of author.