Weed Eater: Purslane

Purslane (portulaca oleracea) or Verdolagas in Mexico, is most commonly recognized as a weed. It is recognizable with its fleshy succulent leaves and stems with yellow flowers. It is very resilient growing in many conditions from fertile garden soil to the poorest arid areas. It is even said that the seeds can stay viable buried in soil for up to 40 years. Until recently, most research on purslane has focused on its eradication. A frequently overlooked approach to controlling this weed is to eat it! Purslane is so surprisingly
tasty, North Carolina market gardener Patryk Battle says, “I have rarely had anybody not buy purslane after they’ve tried it.”

IMG_0078Not only is it delicious, but studies have shown that it has a higher level of beneficial antioxidants than spinach. We all know that antioxidants are hugely beneficial to our health – helping to reduce heart disease, atherosclerosis , cancer, memory loss, and age-related vision loss as well as boosting our immune systems. Purslane also contains greater concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids than some fish oils making it a great option for vegans and vegetarians. Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents and recognized as playing a role in the reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, asthma, heart disease and depression.

In addition, it is an extremely rich source of vitamin A, which again can protect against certain types of cancer and improve eye health. A serving of 100g (about a cup) of Purslane can provide as much as 44% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. It also contains vitamins C, and B-complex including riboflavin,
pyridoxine, and niacin, carotenoids, and several trace minerals including iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Purslane starts to lose its nutritional qualities immediately after harvesting. If you don’t have a big garden or if you fear that planting purslane will take over your entire vegetable garden, try growing it indoors as a micro-green. All you need is an empty container, some potting soil, organic purslane seeds and a sunny window sill. Simply sow the seeds, keep the soil moist (but avoid over-watering), and watch your micro-purslane grow!

In Mexico (called Verdolagas) it is common to find this plant being sold in bundles in the local markets and used in many dishes. It is considered to be a ‘cooling’ food in hot climates.

Please note that pregnant women are commonly advised to avoid eating purslane. The reason is unknown.