Weed or Food? The Ubiquitous Purslane

Date:25-05-2013 07:38:04 read:23
Category:Fashion-->Wild Plants


Chances are, even though you haven’t planted this vegetable in your garden, it’s there as a weed. You can pull it out, or just let it grow and eat it for dinner.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a succulent, herbaceous plant that is prostrate and mat-like. Both the leaves and the stems are very fleshy. The main stem arises from a taproot and almost immediately splits into several side branches that spread flat against the ground. The stems may start out green or red and older stems are reddish or purplish. The base of the plant does not get woody or corky. This feature can help one distinguish the weedy purslane from the native ihi (Portulaca lutea) which does get a woody or corky base.
The leaves are oval or tear-shaped and two leaves are opposite each other at each node. Each pair of leaves is oriented 90 degrees from the previous pair of leaves. They are fleshy and smooth and may be either green or reddish. Leaves are usually clustered at the tips of the branches but since small branches are always forming along older branches, and these smaller branches have their clusters of leaves, it can appear that leaves are along all portions of the stems.
The flowers are yellow and quite small (¼ to ½ inch in diameter). They are borne singly in the axils (crotches) of the leaves or clustered at the ends of the branches. The fruit are also small and are green in color. They split open and reveal small, nearly oval, wrinkled, black seeds with a whitish scar at one end. Chances are you won’t see the seeds at a casual glance since they tend to fall out of the fruit as soon as the fruit cracks open. The cracked-open fruit that remains on the plant looks like a rounded cup attached to the stem.
The origin of purslane is unknown for certain. Some experts give Persia or India as a place if origin. It has been used as a vegetable and medicine in those parts of the world for more than 2,000 years. This plant grows in nearly all parts of the world, from Canada to Africa and is used as a food or medicine by many peoples of the world. In Hawaii it is a weed on all of the main islands except Kahoolawe, as well as on the remote northwest Hawaiian Islands (on Midway Atoll, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Laysan, French Frigate Shoals and Nihoa).
Purslane grows wherever it can get a foothold, even by utility poles on the sides of roads. If
you are planning on eating purslane, don’t bother gathering the stuff by the sides of the road;
use the plants that are growing in your garden.
As a Weed
Purslane grows in partial shade to full sun in most types of soil. It is often found in hot, dry areas and can even be found growing in cracks in the sidewalk and curbs along streets.
As a garden weed it is fairly easy to keep under control, but nearly impossible to eradicate. The plants have a taproot but if they are cut off at the base, using a hoe or a sickle, the roots do not grow new tops. Seedlings are fairly easy to pull by hand and can either be tossed into the compost pile or tossed with a dressing for a salad.
Care should be taken when pulling larger plants. Pulling a plant that is in fruit results in the seeds being spread around for a new crop. Small branches that break off and are not cleaned up may root and continue to grow.
Though purslane can be controlled with herbicides formulated for broadleaf weeds, regular applications will more than likely result in plants resistant to herbicides. This weed has already developed resistance to at least two herbicide types used on Mainland farms. Hand pulling and cultivating with a hoe are much better alternatives for controlling this weed.
As a Vegetable
Purslane is a potherb. A potherb is any plant, whose leaves or stems are boiled for food. Spinach is probably the best-known pot herb. Purslane can be served as a batter-dipped fried vegetable and eaten with other tempura. Leafy tips can be blanched and frozen for later use. Purslane makes a good addition to soups and stews. The shoots make a nice, fresh salad with a slightly bitter taste that is not overpowering. In fresh salads, use a light vinaigrette for the dressing. To cook purslane as a potherb, wash freshly harvested plants under cool, running water, boil the plants for 10 minutes and season with butter and seasonings. Purslane stays pretty much the same size cooked as it is when it is fresh so the volume you begin with is basically what you will have once it is cooked.
As Medicine
Purslane is used all over the world as a folk medicine. All parts of purslane plants are used to treat internal parasites, as a blood cleanser and a digestive aid. Purslane has also been used as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic and an anti-fungal medicine.
Check the base to determine whether the Portulaca you are looking at is the native P.
lutea (woody base) or the non-native P. oleracea (no corky or woody structure).
Purslane has been used to treat a wide range of human diseases and ailments such as anthrax, bacterial infections, insect and snake bites, bladder problems, boils, colds, burns, colic, dermatitis, diarrhea, dysentery, earache, eczema, fever, fungal infections, gonorrhea, bleeding, herpes, insomnia, intestinal and kidney and liver problems, nausea, scurvy, toothaches and warts.
Few studies have been conducted on the curative properties of purslane and though it does make a good vegetable, its use a medicine has not been proven effective by modern science and there is some speculation that its relatively high vitamin, iron and protein content are the true cause of reported cures.
Purslane, boiled, drained, with salt, one cup
  • Calories 20.7
  • Protein 1.714 g
  • Total fat 0.219 g
  • Carbohydrate 4.082 g
  • Calcium 89.7 mg
  • Iron 0.885 mg
  • Magnesium 77.05 mg
  • Phosphorus 42.55 mg
  • Potassium 561.2 mg
  • Sodium 322 mg
  • Zinc 0.196 mg
  • Vitamin C 12.075 mg
  • Thiamin 0.036 mg
  • Riboflavin 0.103 mg
  • Niacin 0.529 mg
  • Vitamin B-6 0.081 mg
  • Vitamin A 2129.8 IU
Purslane, raw, one cup
Purslane seedlings are easy to pull out of the garden when they are young. There are probably
many more seeds waiting to germinate for each seedling you yank out of the ground.
  • Calories 6.88
  • Protein 0.559 g
  • Total fat 0.043 g
  • Carbohydrate 1.475 g
  • Calcium 27.95 mg
  • Iron 0.856 mg
  • Magnesium 29.24 mg
  • Phosphorus 18.92 mg
  • Potassium 212.42 mg
  • Sodium 19.35 mg
  • Zinc 0.073 mg
  • Vitamin C 9.03 mg
  • Thiamin 0.02 mg
  • Riboflavin 0.048 mg
  • Niacin 0.206 mg
  • Vitamin B-6 0.031 mg
  • Vitamin A 567.6 IU
Purslane Tsukemono (Pickles)
  • 1 quart purslane stems and leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 quart vinegar
  • 10 peppercorns
Clean the purslane stems and leaves by rinsing with fresh water. Cut into 1-inch 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.
Purslane Con Queso
  • 1 quart purslane including stems
  • ¼ cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Collect tender purslane, including the stems, and carefully rinse to remove any sand or soil. Gently boil for about two minutes or until tender. Drain the water and chop the purslane into smaller pieces. Return the purslane to the frying pan and sprinkle the jack cheese over it. Keep the purslane in the pan just until the cheese melts. Be careful not to over-melt the cheese. Serve warm.
Purslane Omelet
  • 2 cups purslane, with stems, diced
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup nasturtium leaves and stems, diced
  • Butter

Carefully clean and rinse the purslane. The entire aboveground plant can be used as long as it is still tender. Add the diced onion and purslane to a heated and buttered skillet. Cook for about five minutes. Add the eggs and cook omelet-style. Serve with a tomato slice

The common Purslane or “Pusley”, made famous by Charles Dudley Warner, is no familiar that most people despise it as a mere weed. As a matter of fact, however, in many “victory-gardens” the crop of Purslane has more potential value for food than the ignorantly nursed or neglected planted crops.

Cooking Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea)When cooked and seasoned like spinach, the tender young branches make one of the most palatable of potherbs, with little loss of bulk in cooking, so that a small patch of vigorous plants clipped of their new tips and allowed to sprout again is sufficient to supply a table throughout summer.

The fatty or slimy quality of Purslane is sometimes objectionable, but by chopping the cooked tips and then baking with bread-crumbs and a beaten egg this disagreeable quality in entirely disguised.

It is truly surprising how few sophisticated Americans appreciate the esculent qualities of Purslane,, since our ancestors, both in America and in Europe, were fully cognizant of them. Thus we find the distinguished Manaseh Cutler, in the 18th century, stating that, as a potherb it is little inferior to asparahus, while in the 16th century John Gerarde wrote that “Rawe Purslane is much used in salads with oile, salt, and vinegar.”

Others speak of it as a palatable and easily procured pickle. Thus the always delightfully concrete John Evelyn in 1706 gave these detailed directions:

Lay the Stalks in an Earten-Pan; then cover them with Beer-Vinegar and Water, keeping them down with a competent Weight, to imbibe, three Days : Being taken out, put them into a Pot with as much White-wine Vinegar as will cover them again; and close the Lid with Paste, to keep in the Steam : Then set them on the Fire for three or four Hours, often shaking and stirring them : Then open the Cover, and turn and remove those Stalks which lie at the Bottom, to the Top, and boil them as before, till they are all a Colour. When all is cold, Pot them with Fresh White-wine Vinegar, and so you may preserve them the whole Year round.

Edible Parts

  • Stems
  • Leaves
  • Flowers


Purslane may be used fresh as a salad, stir-fried, or cooked as spinach is, and because of its mucilaginous quality it also is suitable for soups and stews. Australian Aborigines use the seeds to make seedcakes.

Purslane Salad

Greeks, who call it andrakla (αντράκλα) or glystrida (γλυστρίδα), fry the leaves and the stems with feta cheese, tomato, onion, garlic, oregano, and olive oil. In Turkey, besides being used in salads and in baked pastries, it is cooked as a vegetable similar to spinach.

According to Dr. Edward Palmer, the seeds of this and related species are used by the southwestern Indians for making mush or bread, the plants being placed in large piles, dried, and then pounded to free the seeds. Be sure first to wash off all mud and sad.

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.
  • 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.

Medicinal Uses

Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid in particular) than any other leafy vegetable plant. Research published by Simopoulos states that Purslane has 0.01 mg/g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This is an extraordinary amount of EPA for a land-based vegetable source. EPA is an Omega-3 fatty acid found mostly in fish, some algae, and flax seeds.It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin A, vitamin C, and some vitamin B and carotenoids), as well as dietary minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron. Also present are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, the reddish betacyanins (visible in the coloration of the stems) and the yellow betaxanthins (noticeable in the flowers and in the slight yellowish cast of the leaves). Both of these pigment types are potent antioxidants and have been found to have antimutagenic properties in laboratory studies

Known as Ma Chi Xian (pinyin: translates as “horse tooth amaranth”) in traditional Chinese medicine, its active constituents include: noradrenaline, calcium salts, dopamine, DOPA, malic acid, citric acid, glutamic acid, asparagic acid, nicotinic acid, alanine, glucose, fructose, and sucrose.Betacyanins isolated from Portulaca oleracea ameliorated cognition deficits in aged mice. Use is contraindicated during pregnancy and for those with cold and weak digestion. Purslane is a clinically effective treatment for oral lichen planus, and its leaves are used to treat insect or snake bites on the skin, boils, sores, pain from bee stings, bacillary dysentery, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, postpartum bleeding, and intestinal bleeding.

The Self Nutrition Data can be found here

Where Does Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) Grow?

Purslane Growing Area

How To Identify Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea)

Overall Appearance

This herb is a trailing annual with reddish, fleshy stems whose ends will form roots when they come in contact with the ground. Cultivated Purslane also known as Pusley & Verdolaga grows about 3 inches high and 12 to 18 inches wide.

Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) Leaves


  • The fleshy leaves are long, oval or spoon shaped and about 1/2 to 2 inches long.
  • Purslane has small, oblong, green leaves, which form clusters. Leaves are usually in clusters of 5 or 6 and are delicate and juicy.
  • The leaf has a central fibrous channel or stem extension, without pronounced branching of side channels.
  • The leaves have a mild flavor.


  • The stem is round and smooth, and it trails along the ground like a small vine.
  • Young plants have a green stem but as the plant matures the stems take on reddish tints. Creeping stems are reddish brown, about 10 inches long, with frequent branching.

Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) Flowers


Flowers are 1/4 inch long and a brilliant yellow in colour with 5 petals, which contain miniscule round

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