Purslane: A Weed You’ll Find Most Useful

common purslane
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A green, leafy vegetable, purslane is best known as a weed – but it can also be eaten. It’s delicious both raw and cooked. Referred to scientifically as Portulaca oleracea, it is also referred to as fatweed, pusley, and hogweed – admittedly, none of which are very attractive or enticing names!

Purslane can be found growing in the wild in many parts of the world. A succulent plant, it has rubbery-looking leaves and contains nearly 93% water.

With red stems and tiny green leaves, it is often compared to watercress or spinach (it has a somewhat sour flavor). In fact, you can use it in similar ways, like in sandwiches or prepared salads.

Because it’s a weed, purslane can grow just about anywhere. You might find it in drought-stricken environments as well as popping up in sidewalk cracks.

Varieties of Purslane

Did you know that there are all kinds of purslane, including the wild type of this plant that grows rampant on your lawn and in your garden?

Portulaca oleracea is the bright green, wild type that you’ll see growing in your garden. With yellow flowers and a delicate appearance, it’s not exactly unsightly to look at, but it can be an inconvenience in your garden.

It actively reseeds itself when the plants are disturbed, making it tough to remove.

Golden purslane, or Portulaca sativa, is found in herb gardens. This type of purslane is popular among chefs as it has a variety of culinary uses.

It’s frequently used in Mediterranean dishes along with in meals like stews and omelets. Many people say it tastes just like spinach, while others say it has a lemony aftertaste and a flavor not unlike that of watercress.

There are also a couple of ornamental varieties of purslane to be aware of, both of which are often sold in hanging baskets at nurseries. These are Portulaca grandiflora and portulaca umbraticola.

There are dozens of varieties within these two, but all produce brightly colored blooms and are great for cultivation in a drought-prone environment. The plant produces flowers all summer and fall in warm weather.

Key Benefits

Purslane is known as an excellent source of vitamins A, C and E and the essential amino acids. Reports describe Purslane as a “power food of the future” because of its high nutritive and antioxidant properties.

Purslane leaves contain Omega-3 fatty acid which regulate the body’s metabolic activities. Purslane herb is known to have one of the highest known concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acid in any plant.

The stems of Purslane herb are known to be high in vitamin C. Purslane has tons of magnesium and manganese along with notable quantities of iron, calcium, and potassium.

It also contains trace quantities of vitamins B1, B2, B3, folate, phosphorous, and copper. All at just 16 calories per cup, I might add!

Therapeutic Uses

Purslane is widely used as a potherb in Mediterranean, central European and Asian countries.

Purslane is also widely used as an ingredient in a green salad. Tender stems and leaves are usually eaten raw, alone or with other greens. They are also cooked or pickled for consumption.

Purslane is used in various parts of the world to treat burns, headaches, stomach, intestinal and liver ailments, cough, shortness of breath and arthritis.

Purslane herb has also been used as a purgative, cardiac tonic, emollient, muscle relaxant, and in anti-inflammatory and diuretic treatments. It is believed to be a natural remedy for insomnia and has many of the same health benefits as other leafy greens.

Purslane is popularly preserved for winter by pickling Purslane in apple cider vinegar with garlic cloves and peppercorns.

Purslane appears among a list of herbs considered to help benefit conditions such as osteoporosis and psoriasis.

How to Find Purslane

Purslane can be found growing just about anywhere. It has smooth, red leaves and leaves and stems that mostly are flat.

These can be opposite or alternate and are usually clustered together at the stem ends. The plant occasionally produces yellow flowers.

These appear randomly throughout the year and depend on rainfall in order to open up. They generally only stay open for a few hours a day, and only on very sunny days.

foraging for purslane
Purslane in Kendra’s backyard.

This plant has a taproot that is incredibly tough and fibrous. It can break through tough, compacted soils and even extremely dry ground. As a result, you’re apt to find this tenacious plant growing in any corner of an abandoned garden.

What’s interesting to note is that although we view purslane as a weed, this wasn’t always the case. IN fact, Indian immigrants first brought it here with them from their shores, knowing how valuable it was as an edible crop.

Growing Purslane

Most people don’t deliberately plant purslane in their gardens because it grows so well – and voraciously! – on its own. However, if you really wanted to, you could easily plant this crop in your vegetable garden.

It actually has a few notable benefits to be aware of. It not only provides ground cover for nearby plants, helping to keep the moisture stable and level, but it also has deep taproots that can draw up nutrients to be used by these other plants.

It also helps drive down into the soil, loosening up compacted dirt for plants that would otherwise have a tough time getting their roots through.

To grow purslane, you will need to grow this plant from a propagation. To do this, cut a piece off the stem of an existing plant.

Place it in potting soil (or honestly, even regular garden soil – this plant is such a vivacious grower, it won’t take much to get it going). After a few weeks, the plant will be growing wild on its own.

An alternative to growing purslane from a propagated cutting is to start cultivated varieties indoors. Do this in a seed tray in the late spring and transplant it in the summer.

You should harden the plants off before transplanting them into the garden, as they can be somewhat frost- and cold-sensitive. Plant your purslane plants about six inches apart.

You can also direct sow seeds into the garden after the threat of frost has passed. Thin to six inches apart and plant once more in late summer for a fall crop. Purslane can also be grown in a container or indoors.

Once it gets started, you don’t need to do much to care for it. A bit of water here and there can help, but the plant is so drought-tolerant that it doesn’t need much of that, either. Fertilizers and weeding are not necessary.

If you want to harvest some purslane, you will want to pull it up completely. Then, remove the stems from where they are attached to the root. You can feed the root to your chickens or just compost it.

You can also save the seeds. Make sure you wash each individual stem carefully, as each one has crevices that hold in soil. It can be tough to get all of that dirt off!

Common Pests and Diseases

Purslane is a primary source of food for wildlife, so you may have some trouble keeping certain animals off your purslane plants. Sparrows eat the seeds, as do certain species of mice.

Deer will also eat the leaves, but they are known for being distributors of seeds as they pass through their digestive tract and are still viable afterwards.

In some places, you may have problems with sawflies, aphids, snails, slugs, and gnats.

Keeping the soil relatively dry and well-weeded can help prevent these pests from becoming an issue, as can row covers and natural treatments like diatomaceous earth.

Purslane, when grown in wet conditions, is also sometimes affected by root rot and stem rot. Again, keep the soil around this drought-tolerant plant dry to prevent this issue.

Preserving Purslane

If you have more purslane than you know what to do with, don’t worry – there are several ways you can preserve it. The easiest way to do so is to stick it in the refrigerator for long-term storage.

Unlike many wild greens that you can gather or grow, this plant is not prone to drying out so it will last in the refrigerator for up to a week without losing its flavor.

You can also freeze purslane. Just cut off the root, wash it well, and blanch it first. To do this, you will want to boil it for three minutes and then toss it immediately into a bowl of ice water.

Let it cool, then put it into freezer bags and spread it out so it lies flat. Put it in the freezer and it will remain viable all year long.

Purslane can also be dried and turned into a powder. Again, you will want to wash the leaves well. Remove the leaves from the stems and put them on a single layer in your dehydrator.

Alternatively, they can be dried in the oven. Use a mesh screen to keep the leaves from falling through the trays.

Set the temperature on your dehydrator (or your oven) to 135. Turn the purslane often and wait twelve hours for it to dry out completely.

Once it’s brittle, you can put the leaves in a blender and process it until it is a powder. It will last for several years in this form, but is best eaten within a few months for the best flavors.

Purslane Recipes

If you’re on the hunt for some good purslane recipes, consider giving these a try:

Wrap Up

The entire purslane plant is edible, and it can be eaten fresh or cooked. It can even be canned or dried for long term storage!

I picked some tonight, washed it, and ate the entire plant raw. It was delicious! The taste was very much like lettuce; bland, but good. You could also steam, boil, or saute it if you preferred.

Isn’t that AWESOME?!

Obviously, I won’t be pulling it out of my garden beds anymore. Or at least, I’ll transplant them if they become too invasive.

Yay for wild edibles!! I do believe I’ll add some purslane to my salad tonight!

Do you have purslane growing around your home? Have you ever eaten any? If you’ve never tasted it, you gotta give it a try! I’d love to know what you think!

purslane pinterest

updated 03/27/2020 by Rebekah White


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Kendra
About Kendra 1035 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

27 Comments

  1. I’ve eaten a lot of Purslane in my lifetime it’s great. Just don’t get it confused with spotted spurge which is poisonous. They look alike.

  2. There are so many edible “weeds” that you pull out of your garden it makes me shudder. Chickweed and burdock are volunteers in most peoples gardens, and they spray them with weed killer 🙁 I just leave them grow. I’m convinced this is mana from heaven. Within a very small geographic area you can find cures for what ails us. I think with things they way they are now, we need to make sure that we know and understand the mana we have in our own yards.

  3. I finally found my recipe for cream of purslane soup! Thought I’d post it… It’s originally for cream of lettuce I just subbed purslane. Unfortunately I didn’t take notes or measure/ weigh my changes.
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 tablespoon cornstarch
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon sugar
    2 cups milk
    2 cups water
    1 head lettuce (I guess I used an amount of purslane that I thought was similar to a head of lettuce, or probably more)
    2 slices onion (I’m sure I used a whole onion)
    3 tablespoons cold water

    Wash and chop purslane fine, put lettuce in a pot with 2 cups water. Add salt, sugar and onion. Cook slowly for twenty minutes. Heat milk (separately)in a double broiler. Blend cornstarch with 3 tablespoons cold water and then pour into hot milk. Cook until it thickens slightly. Add purslane mixture and butter. Pepper to taste.

    Sorry it took so long, obviously I haven’t made this in a while. My family isn’t big on soups unless they are a meal. Or maybe it’s me that isn’t big on making a “first course” then preparing the rest of the meal. 😉

  4. @ Sally – all your ‘weeds’ are edible. I’ve been trying wild edibles and discovered lambs quarter this year. They’re taller than me right now. When the kale became sparse, my hens chose lambsquarter as their favorite green forage. You can munch it fresh, but it’s excellent cooked like spinach. In fact, unless you are the one who cooked it, you’d probably assume it was spinach since it looks and tastes nearly the same. You need alot because it boils down.

    Now the big question? Why don’t we know more about these plants? I asked my dad (age 80) and he grew up eating them. Yet, I never had them until the last few years. I think it had to do with prosperity. It was a sign of wealth to buy your food. And the fact it wasn’t really marketable since it’s wild…. same as summer purslane…. well, knowledge about his wild food was just nearly forgotten. Glad to see so many rediscovering the uses of ‘the wild things’.

  5. Hi, I love your website and I would like to recommend few other wild plants, weeds and shrubs.

    Stinging Nettle (taste like spinach but is very benefic to you, much more than the spinach) has great medicinal qualities. Plant it in the shady area in a far end corner of your property (invasive). Use gloves to pick and clean. Stinging nettles heal all arthritic illnesses both externally and internally.

    Elderberry flower and berries, the flower makes a nice cordial for hot summer days and syrup with great medical benefits. The berries are great for making jam and syrup. Nice plant to have around the property and it grows just about anywhere. Lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost the immune system, improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis

    Spruce or Fir Tip (buds)… the light green new buds are great to make syrup. It is good for cough syrup when you get a cold with fantastic results, and also great for a cordial on hot summer days. Known as medicine for kidneys.
    http://www.ediblewildfood.com/blog/2012/01/recycle-your-christmas-tree-drink-it/

    Dandelions… The bloom makes a wonderful syrup (honey) or jelly and the leaves are great in salads.

    Black Locust blossoms… could be consumed raw or cooked. Syrup, jelly, jams or dried as a tea. It is good for hyperacid gastritis, gastric ulcer, convulsive and asthmatic coughing, insomnia and headaches.

  6. I looked around for it, but I have no idea what I’ve done with it! If I find it I will share. (I remember it was mostly cream, and it had onions.)

  7. I LOVE this stuff! I let it grow in with my veggies, and snack on the tops as I work in the garden. If you can keep it from seeding it helps to prevent full takeover. The Seed heads are small, but they have tons of seeds in there. The seeds are about the size of poppy seeds and probably could be used the same way if it gets out of hand. I let one section take over at some point and harvested it all to make cream of purslane soup. It was awesome. (I used a cream of lettuce recipe)

  8. Dang!!! I’ve been pulling this stuff out of our garden for years! Always considered it a weed because it would practically drown our tomatoes! Well, lesson learned and will definitely not just be pitching this stuff to the side any more! Thanks!!!

  9. That is awesome to know! This stuff usually wants to take over my garden every year! I love that I’m just beginning to find out that so many of my “weeds” are actually super-foods. 🙂 Could you share a bit more about that deck you were talking about? I’d love to find out where I could get my hands on one.

  10. Oh dear…

    Yes, that’s what that “weed” is. Yes, it’s edible. Yes, it can be delicious.

    And I _hate_ this stuff. Because it loves the soil around my tomato and especially corn plants, and it’s tough to get rid of, and it’ll cover my garden if I don’t keep up with the weeding.

    Worst (best) of all, every little piece of it likes to sprout again if you chop it up with the hoe.

    I hope you love the stuff, ’cause you’ll need to eat like a ruminant to keep up with it. 🙂

    By the way, there are a number of different varieties of it, and they don’t all taste the same. Always try a piece of it before you turn a bunch of it into a salad or soup.

  11. Yep! I discovered it on our place last year, and we love it. Isn’t is so much fun to learn about what our Heavenly Father has placed before us for our nourishment?

  12. Ohhh I pull this out of my garden ALL the time! I’ll definitely keep my eye out for it now and maybe move it if I have to. What a neat thing to learn!

  13. We just discovered this this week, too. . .small world! It’s an indicator of fertile, slightly acidic soil. The site I was on mentioned it was good for chickens, too. Have you read anything about that?

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