Friday, July 19, 2013

Purslane: The Weed That Came For Dinner

Portulaca, or Purslane, is a common annual weed that is just starting to thrive in the garden with this ridiculous heat.  Courtesy of a neighbor of mine, I recently learned that it is edible, and in fact a very beneficial and nutritious 'vegetable'.

Freshly harvested(weeded) Purslane from my
mother-in-laws tomato garden.  ©2013 BDG
When my neighbor asked me about this weed, I knew what it was, but had no idea that it was considered by many to be a wonder plant.  So, I had to do a little research and was amazed at the capabilities of this weed.  While I don't believe everything I read, it appears that it is loaded with vitamins, is one of the few veggies to contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids,  helps improve the skin, benefits the urinary and digestive systems, acts as an anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, can help regulate the immune system and blood pressure, is good for the heart, aids in weight control, prevents cancer, fights depression.  WOW.

A vegetable-centric website called Best Vegetables has a write-up on Purslane.  Health Guidance also has a summary of the health benefits of Purslane.  If this plant can deliver on any of these promises, then it is worth adding it to your salads or stir-fry.  I ate several raw sprigs and found it fresh and slightly zesty.  It will be a nice addition to a future salad.

Purslane in the vegetable garden.  ©2013 BDG
It is available at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Wild Garden Seed if you want it available anytime, but I will enjoy searching for the weed in local gardens, and may have to go out with a headlamp at night to harvest from neighbors yards.  It comes out in mid summer with the big heat and grows in disturbed soil, so veggie gardens are perfect places to search.  I may go to our local organic farm, Wright-Locke Farm, to see if I can harvest some of their weeds.  You will also find it in sidewalk cracks and along roads.  Be careful where you gather it since it may be exposed to harmful chemicals.  As with any food, you want to make sure it is grown in a safe environment.
Spurge, a similar looking weed that
can be poisonous. ©2013 BDG

There is another weed out at this time that looks similar called Spurge.  Purslane is prostrate, has thick red/yellow stems, and fleshy, thick leaves.  Spurge has a similar look but the stems are not as thick and the leaves are thin and not fleshy.  Spurge is part of the Euphorbia family and they can be poisonous.  An easy way to tell is to break the stem, and if it is a spurge, a milky sap will ooze out.  Purslane will not have a milky sap and is a thick fleshy plant.

It is used in cultures throughout the world, but apparently its origins are in India.  A fascinating article discusses it cultural significance.

I am continually amazed by our natural world, and thanks to a friend will try not to overlook the value of any plant...even a lowly weed.
After posting this, I received a quote from someone who read this blog and I thought it appropriate to add: "What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." - Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. Thank YOU Reed for finding the 'wonder weed'..I will be singing your praises as I revitalize my youth:)))

  2. I'm very glad you mentioned not muddling purslane and spurge - yikes. I didn't realise purslane had so many attributes. I am trying to love my weeds and you are helping me along the way, so thank you. If only you could find something marvellous to tell me about bind weed....

    1. Bindweed may be the only plant to survive a nuclear holocaust. How's that for a positive!

  3. Interesting ! Somehow it doesn't 'look' edible if you know what I mean. Basil and coriander scream 'Eat meeeee' but I can't hear the purslane whispering ! I will take your word for it !!!

  4. Amazing the wild plants we can eat and just shun....

  5. I never realized purslane was edible. Although anything at ground level in my garden is inedible thanks to the dogs. I have lots of spurge. It's a pain in the butt!

  6. I'd just like to say "thanks" here. There are a number of websites defining Portulaca as "Milk Carrier" and claiming it was named for its milky-white sap. As you explained, Purslane and other types of Portulaca have clear sap. I don't know where that milky misinformation originated, but it's good to see the correct information made available in places like your blog.