Purslane is a hardy, annual succulent plant that is viewed here in the United States as a common pesky weed. Much to our surprise, it’s actually packed with nutrition and commonly eaten all over the world. I first came across Purslane when helping my mother weed her vegetable garden many years ago. She found a bunch growing in a raised bed and delightfully exclaimed that it was “Purslane”, having been taught about the plant when she was a child by her father, my grandfather, who was an avid outdoorsman and forestry major in college.
Purslane can be identified by its sprawling, pinkish red stems and succulent clusters of bright green leaves that are paddle shaped and not more than one inch long. It grows along the ground but will grow upward sometimes if surrounded by other plants that are taking up its elbow room. Purslane is well tolerant of drought and poor soil conditions. This explains why it absolutely THRIVES in my well cared for and watered organic vegetable garden, without ever having been invited!
Purslane is unique and wonderful in that it contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant, providing both ALA and EPA. It is full of antioxidants, vitamins A, B, and C, and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron. (Note: you want to consume calcium foods that naturally contain magnesium, which aids in calcium absorption. This is nature’s innate wisdom at work.) Purslane is clearly not a “pesky” weed worthy of pulling and discarding. I happily munch on sprigs of it while I garden, fresh picked!
Purslane has a crunchy texture and a very mild flavor with a hint of sweet/sour/tang. All parts of the plant, stems, leaves, and seeds, are edible and can be used in the same way that one would use any other leafy vegetable. Purslane can be added to raw salads, sautéed in a stir fry, or blended into a smoothie for picky eaters. In Greece, it’s sautéed in olive oil with feta cheese, tomato, onion, garlic, and oregano. Give it a try!