Fleshy, succulent looking, wild purslane

Purslane: Any Portulaca In A Storm

Her name was Zona. She was a grand friend-in-law

She had been a friend of the family for about a century. To be exact, her oldest son married the youngest daughter of my grandmother’s lifelong, met-as-kids, best friend. I went to high school with Zona’s granddaughter, which in a small town was closer than kissing cousins with expectations of marriage. Zona also had weeds, lots of weeds. While visiting relatives, I was asked to take a look at her weeds.

Leaves are crunchy and viscous

She was a spry widow and her house sat on a hill amid fields. The lowest field was also the local alluvial flood plain for the Royal River, which if it had been named for its true size would have been called the Royal Trickle.  Every spring, however, melting snow swelled it to near regal proportions and flooded Zona’s lower field, leaving it with rich, friable soil.  So, I looked at her black-earth garden. What Zona had was the most beautiful and ambitious plot of self-seeded purslane I have ever seen, before or since, truly an incredible bounty; deep green, plump, healthy and about as full of life and happy as any plant or weed ought to be or can to be.

As I stood there in amazement, she asked me if I knew what it was. I said yes, that it was the most nutritious green on earth and how fortunate she was.

“That?” she asked, pointing incredulously at her garden. “You can eat that? It’s a weed!”

“That,” I said, “is esteemed around the world” to which the crust crusty old gal said, “I ain’t goin’ to eat no god damned weed” and that was that.

Too bad. Purslane, sold in produce markets at every location on the rotation except the United States, is a nutritional powerhouse. It has omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants as well as a Fourth of July parade of vitamins and minerals. I think there’s even an anti-cancer color guard in there as well. According to experts at the University of Texas at San Antonio, purslane contains 10 to 20 times more melatonin, an antioxidant, than any other fruit or vegetable they tested. It’s a fine addition to the dinner table in many forms, and it is truly difficult to understate this plant’s amazing qualities. Let me sing in praise of purslane:

Small blossoms are open only for a day. Portulaca oleracea, (poor-two-LAY-ka oh-ler-AY-see-a) whose name means “milk-bearing cultivated plant” or “little door cultivated plant” is a native of India and the Middle East, but is naturalized throughout the world. Sediment deposits in Canada strongly suggest it came to North American before Columbus, either with Leif Erickson and raiding party, or earlier with humans from Asia to Alaska. It is found as early as 7th century BC in Greece, and Greek texts from the fourth century BC say it’s a plant no respectable Greek kitchen garden, or medicine cabinet, is without. Theophratus called it  “andrákhne” — which might mean “man weed”… any ancient Greek experts can correct me  —  and said April was the best time to plant it.  Slightly sour and mucilaginous — that’s where “milk-bearing” comes in — purslane can be used in salad to soups to omelets. The stems can be pickled. Australian aborigines used the minute seeds to make seed cakes and the Greeks made bread from the seed flour.  Contemporary Greeks call it “Glistritha.”The words “purslane” and “porcelain” have the same source and similar development. Latin for sow (pig) was porca. It was also the Roman slang for the vulva, and the plant was used for uterine complaints.  A diminutive of that, little vulva, became porcillac in Italian to porcellana in old French then to English as purslane. For porcelain, it went from porca to porcella which was the nickname of the cowrie shell because of its vulva-like appearance. In Italian the shell became porcellina. When a glaze was developed for china, it was named after the cowie shell because of its similar shiny appearance and became porcelain then into English as porcelain.Small barrels of edible seeds make the plant extremely prolific

Regardless of what one calls it, purslane contains more omega 3 fatty acids than any other plant source in the solar system, and an extraordinary amount for a plant, some 8.5 mg for every gram of weight.  It has vitamin A, B, C and E — six times more E than spinach — beta carotene — seven times more of that than carrots — magnesium, calcium, potassium, folate, lithium — keep you sane — iron and is 2.5% protein. Two pigments, one in the leaves and one in the yellow blossoms, have been proven anti-mutagenic in lab studies, meaning they help keep human cells from mutating, which is how cancer gets started. And you get all that for about 15 calories per 100 gram (three ounce) serving. As a mild diuretic, it might even lower your blood pressure as well. Mexicans call it Verdolagao and its name in Malawi translates politely as “buttocks of the chief’s wife”, a possible reference to the plump leaves.

Herny David Thoreau

Over the centuries, many have written about purslane. Even the original Back-to-Nature Guy, Henry David Thoreau, knew of it, penning in 1854 at Walden Pond: “I learned from my two years’ experience that it would cost incredibly little trouble to obtain one’s necessary food, even in this latitude; that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain health and strength. I have made a satisfactory dinner . . . simply off a dish of purslane … which I gathered in my cornfield, boiled and salted. . . . Yet men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for want of necessaries but for want of luxuries.”

This fantastic “weed” is virtually underfoot everywhere, including Walden Pond, apparently. One can even find it surviving in places like inner New York City. The strain I grow in my garden came some eleven years ago from a sidewalk crack in Tarpon Springs, FL., a coastal Greek community. There had been a freezing cold snap and it had survived nestled next to a restaurant. I thought something that hardy would be a good addition to my garden. Now I don’t have to plant it. When it comes up I just move to a convenient spot and it re-seeds itself.  I have tried cultivated versions and they simply are not as tasty or prolific as my survivor purslane. By the way, the seeds have a 30-year viable shelf life.

Crete, an island I have come to enjoy and traipse around, is well-known for this purslane salad, flavored with locally-grown capers. The yogurt dressing makes this a cooling repast in hot weather.

* 2 1/2 cups of strained, thick yogurt

* 1 cup of purslane, coarsely chopped

* 1 cup of romaine lettuce, chopped in chunks

* 1 teaspoon of mashed or minced garlic, about one

* 1/4 cup of olive oil

* 3 1/2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

* 2 tablespoons of capers

* salt

* freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl and refrigerate for a half hour to an hour

 

The following recipe is from Diane Kochilas, a well-known Greek chef and writer. She has several publications including “The Greek Vegetarian” for those of you who are. She’s an attractive lass… I wonder if she’s single?

Potato-Purslane Salad

Ingredients

3 medium waxy potatoes, such as Yukon golds or fingerlings, sliced into chunks, about ½ inch thick

salt to taste

1/3 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 ½ lemons); alternatively use red wine vinegar

About 1 cup purslane, thoroughly washed, torn or chopped (stems are tangier than leaves, taste first to see if you like)

½ cup red onion, thinly sliced (alternatively, use a few chopped scallions)

Other options:

½ cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced, into half moon shapes

1 large tomato, roughly chopped

½ cup fresh herbs – mint, parsley, chervil – whatever suits you

Method

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and add salt and potatoes. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and then pour into a serving bowl, spreading even to cover bottom surface. Combine olive oil and lemon juice in a small dish, whisking until well emulsified, then pour over potatoes. In a layered fashion, add purslane, onion, plus any additional ingredients. With a wooden spoon, stir to combine, and taste for salt. Makes enough for two or three as a side dish.

This recipe from Florida’s Incredible Wild Edibles by Dick Deuerling and Peggy S. Lantz

Purslane leaves and stems may be boiled well with just enough water to cover the herbs then discard the first water and pour a smaller amount of hot water over the greens and again boil them. Reduce heat and simmer until tender. Finely chop the herbs and add salt, pepper, vinegar, cinnamon or nutmeg. You can add oil, butter, or bacon fat, and mix with diced hard boiled eggs and put them in a casserole with cheese and bread crumb topping, then bake until cheese melts. Pickled Purslane

1 quart purslane stems and leaves

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1 quart apple cider vinegar

10 peppercorns

Clean the purslane stems and leaves by rinsing with fresh water. Cut into 1″ 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 with omelets and sandwiches. You can pickle the purslane raw or blanche it for two minutes in boiling water first, but cool off quickly in ice water.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Smooth, reddish, mostly low-growing stems, alternate spatula leaves clustered at stem joints and ends, yellow flowers, capsule seed pods. Very fleshy. NOT HAIRY. CLEAR SAP. Those are important, not hairy, and clear sap.

TIME OF YEAR: Any time in season, spring and summer in northern climes, year round in warmer areas.

ENVIRONMENT: Nearly any disturbed grass, likes full sun, often grows two crops in Florida, spring and fall, tolerates the summer heat.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Leaves and stems raw in salads, cooked in soups, thick stems pickled. Wild version invariably tasted better than cultivated versions.  Has a slightly sour/salty taste.

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{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kim November 6, 2011 at 08:42

Dean, I see pink purslane (Portulaca pilosa) all the time. Have you any experience with this one?

Thanks!

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2 Green Deane November 6, 2011 at 18:28

Thanks for writing… I’ve had two people tell me they eat it but 1) I’ve never seen them do it and 2) I don’t eat it. I don’t care for the flavor and it has always irritated my throat when I’ve tried it.

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3 Judi July 14, 2013 at 01:47

I know that some folks sauté it with onion and chili(green) and scrambled eggs

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4 Kim November 8, 2011 at 21:14

Thanks! Hope to see you Sunday at Mead Gardens…getting ready to register now.

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5 Theothoros February 3, 2012 at 06:48

Hallo Deane greetings from Greece, I sometimes have the free time to read you.
Great post about “andrakla” or “glistrida” that’s the correct spelling. As you can imagine we gave the names to this and almost in all the weeds from their pharmaceutical properties. Andrakla means that takes out the fear and make you a man.
Andras means man…
Glistrida means that when you eat it’s slippery
Glistro means slip…
Some other properties is that it takes your thirsty out when you put it down from your tongue, and plus kills the round worms… all these and many more are written from Hippocrates and Dioscourides 2.000 years ago.

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6 Gudrun B April 3, 2012 at 22:04

love your recipes for the purslane! I used to pick just the top tender leaves and the blossoms, now i know the stems are edible as well :)
My only question is : why do people in this country cook potatoes in a ton of water, already peeled and sliced? for any potato salad i steam mine and peel and slice (less waste, easier to peel and i think it keeps more minerals in)
can hardly wait for the weed to grow again :)

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7 Green Deane April 4, 2012 at 06:04

Good question. I grew up eating “New England Boiled Dinners” every Sunday for decades. My mother was a horrible cook. It was basically a lot of vegetables boiled in a lot of water.

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8 Cyndi June 21, 2013 at 12:28

I don’t understand why most people throw the peel’s. We eat the peel’s whenever possible. In mashed potatoes and baked as well as many other recipes I keep it in. Rarely will I not feed it to my family. Many, many nutrients are lost by throwing the peels.

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9 Green Deane June 21, 2013 at 13:06

True with some foods. However, often nature puts the nasty stuff in the peel ’cause there where insects bit first.

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10 RM McWilliams July 24, 2013 at 17:03

Commerical potatos, I’ve been told, may be treated with a chemical to retard sprouting. The peels of your homegrown potatos are a different matter!

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11 Toni April 11, 2012 at 16:09

I picked something that looked like purslane. It fits your ID to a “T.” I broke it and there was clear sap. However it is slightly hairy, but it is quite young , it doesn’t have any flowers yet and I am wondering is it ever the least bit hairy when it is young and thin? I’ve studied the spurge photos and it doesn’t look at all like spurge. What is your opinion?

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12 Green Deane April 11, 2012 at 20:51

Where was the hair on this plant?

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13 Melba August 16, 2012 at 14:56

I have what appears to be Paraquayan Purslane with hair/fuzz at the joints on the stems and beneath the flowers. Everything else looks the same as what you have described above.

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14 Diana September 19, 2013 at 14:38

The plants we have growing around us looks basically the same as in the description you have given (and pictures), except it looks like the flowers may be purple. The leaves aren’t quite as fleshy as the picture either. Is this still purslane?

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15 Green Deane September 19, 2013 at 16:02

It’s propbably portulaca pilosa. I don’t consider that an edible plant.

16 Shulamit July 18, 2012 at 17:31

Purslane is my absolute *favorite* wild plant– and our gardens are growing an *abundant* supply this year in Western Pennsylvania!!! I’m having purslane salad’s daily, and am also finding that tossing them into *any* dish (spaghetti, soup, stirfry….) is *wonderful* also. GREAT to hear that this delicious plant is so *healthy*, too!!! It is *never* bitter (absolutely NO need for that ‘boil in 2 waters’ business in one of the recipes you quote….), stays just as good as ever *all* season, and is so easy to pick– and keeps well in the refrigerator, too. It’s truly a wonderful blessing– thanks for spreading the word on it!

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17 Ingrid August 28, 2012 at 18:05

What is the ‘shelf life’ of the pickled purslane in the refrigerator?

Thanks.

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18 Green Deane August 28, 2012 at 19:29

If properly picked months if not years.

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19 Sarah P August 30, 2012 at 23:21

Hi Deane. I live in St. Pete, where there is a lot of Rose Moss growing. It seems to be a relative of purslane. Do you know if that is edible too?

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20 Green Deane August 31, 2012 at 10:36

People have told me they eat it, raw or cooked. It burns my throat and gives me a tummy ache so it is not on my list of edibles.

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21 name September 12, 2012 at 04:50

I love me some fat weed. it even grows in haiti!

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22 Pam September 29, 2012 at 11:13

I purchased some cultivated purslane today. Of course, it has probably been treated with lots of chemicals, and so it’s not what I would consider edible at this time. Any suggestions on collecting seeds, or should I just let it self-seed? (I’m planning on keeping it in a pot for now).

Thanks!

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23 Green Deane October 1, 2012 at 11:40

I would just let it self seed. It does a great job on its own.

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24 SAM October 23, 2012 at 23:40

CAN PURSLANE HAVE RED OR ANOTHER COLOR BLOSSOM,AND ARE THERE ANY POISONOUS LOOK-ALIKES?

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25 Green Deane October 24, 2012 at 11:48

Some species of Portulaca can have different colored flowers but I would stick with the yellow ones.

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26 Tourbillion May 8, 2013 at 15:05

I have a weed in my yard that has shiny leaves, looks a lot like purslane. It is not, and may be poisonous. The big differences, stems are green, and the leaves have a slight point. Sap is clear, flowers are purple.

I think that this is called “ice plant” around here (doesn’t look like the ice plant that I know though).

Fortunately, my supermarket (Top-Value) caters to ethnics and has “verdolagas” at the moment. So purslane pancakes here we come!

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27 elena October 30, 2012 at 11:06

can you tell me why the clear sap and not hairy properties are important? i see a question in the thread but not an answer…

thanks… great article!

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28 Green Deane October 30, 2012 at 14:35

Because if the plant has milky sap and is hairy it is a totally different plant and probably one (a spurge) that will make you sick.

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29 Mao January 13, 2013 at 15:25

How much daily or weekly Purslane does an average adult needs to consume to supply more than enough of the ALA or EPA requirements? is it around 22 kilos?

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30 Bob James March 2, 2013 at 20:51

I’m ready to devote my back yard to this stuff! Where can I find some to hijack?

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31 RM McWilliams July 23, 2013 at 21:47

Bob- In case you have not yet found a source for purslane, don’t give up! As Deane says, it grows almost ‘everywhere’.

See the eattheweeds video on purslane on YouTube (if you have not already), and other reliable sources for good photos to help you spot it. Then be on the lookout whenever you are outside, in city or country. (You are least likely to find it in ‘well manicured’ suburban areas.) Disturbed soils, in flower beds, along sidewalks, eatc.

Purslane just ‘showed up’ at my homem though it was nowhere to be seen when we first arrived, and we are surrounded by woods; first in dry areas with gravel soil where there was almost no competition, then in areas of richer soil that was also mostly bare (fresh compost). But it is easy to transplant from wherever you find it. If the original plant does not survive, it usually goes rapidly to seed (using water stores in leaves and stems), and you will soon have the next generation.

Best wishes.

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32 farouk March 28, 2013 at 19:02

Being my favourable dish , I should like to introduce you to an example of Sudanese food.: Purslane or “Rigla” dish which could be served with bread; but “Kisra” from sorgum is preferred. To be brief I suggest the following components to be “processed” in the cookjng pot in the same sequence they are written : vegetable oil, thinly chopped onion, beef or lamb meat – chopped, water, lentils (not much ) , roughly chopped tomatoes(or tomato sauce) , thinly chopped bunches of Purslane – collected before blooming, a small bunch of Fennel feniculum – thinly chopped, salt, coriander, black pepper and minced garlic. the last item can be added hot fried in vegetable oil,

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33 Ray Wunderlich III April 4, 2013 at 23:15

Hi Dean, Love your site. Any problems or concerns with bio-accumulation activity of heavy metals that we cannot taste in Portulaca or any other popular wild edible?

Thanks.

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34 Green Deane April 5, 2013 at 09:03

Not that I’ve read of.

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35 Nermina April 17, 2013 at 09:01

Can’t wait for summer time here in Florida so that I can enjoy purslane ! I noticed it is refusing to grow until April. I make stew with it but it tastes best in salads with chopped onions and cooked potatoes.

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36 Diane May 6, 2013 at 18:48

Several questions.
1) How does one PROPERLY pick purslane to make it last in the refrigerator?
2) Are the seed pods tasty? Or is it important to pick them all out during food prep?
3) I’m having a vision of eating the stems/leaves/pods raw and having little black seeds burst out and cover everything. Any more comments about the seed pods?

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37 Green Deane May 7, 2013 at 09:31

I don’t think the picking method makes much of a difference as to it storage. The seeds are nearly flavorless but edible. The little barrels of seeds don’t burst. They open and drop. The most threat the seeds provide is getting caught between your teeth.

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38 PJ Ruben May 10, 2013 at 20:59

Deane,
I noticed a purslane plant growing freely in one of my small beds the other day. My friend recently gave me some purslane that he had potted up which led me to compare it to the one growing naturally. Although they look almost exactly the same the one in my bed as somewhat of a bitter sorrel taste that the potted one does not. Is this plant growing in my bed purslane as well or just morphologically similar? If so what species do you think I have here?

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39 Green Deane May 11, 2013 at 06:36

What color are the flowers?

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40 PJ Ruben May 11, 2013 at 22:28

No flowers yet, but looks like they are about to bud. What should I be looking for?

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41 Anne May 12, 2013 at 09:11

When the heat of summer makes many greens bitter.. purslane is still mild. The stems are also so mild flavored- so they pick up the pickling liquid’s flavor very easily. I make mixed vegetable fridge pickles in 1/2 gallon jars (the purslane is always the first thing my family fishes out of the jar and devours.) They make their way into our salads and the stems also into stirfry.

We pick it early in the morning. The residual heat from the sun causes a lot of things you pick to wilt quickly. Spraying it with cold water or plunging it in cold water right after picking pulls the heat out of them and keep them more crisp.

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42 robert May 24, 2013 at 20:25

I have some growing in South Florida and it is tasty. From reading the above comments it seems Purslane is an annual the re-seeds easily. Does anyone know if it will make it through our hot summer?

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43 Corner Garden Sue June 7, 2013 at 09:55

I like it when I am in one spot on the internet, then end up reading an older blog post. I enjoyed this one. I had to laugh, yet feel sad about the elderly lady not wanting to eat a weed.

Over the years, I have munched on purslane while gardening, but rarely bring it inside to fix anything with. I didn’t realize how good it is for us, so, I better start using it more. Ours is just coming up, and I need to figure out where I’m going to let it grow, because I am not going to give it the amount of space it is trying to claim right now.

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44 Mary July 10, 2013 at 10:43

Beautiful memories of laying in the grass in Yarmouth near the Royal River and munching on purslane many years ago. Never realizing until now how healthy it was. Very interesting site.

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45 Green Deane July 10, 2013 at 15:15

I grew up around the Royal and never quite figured out why it was called the Royal River…. there really isn’t much majestic about it.

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46 Diamond July 22, 2013 at 22:30

Wonderful information on purslane… I was nibbling a small leaf to try it with another gardener questioning whether it was edible… little did I know the riches I held in my hand… we went our ways and left our small community gardens in Boulder City, Nevada… my friend found your website/blog site… !!!!!!!!!

Much gratitude to you and what you have made available, I am looking forward to trying the many recipes.

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47 kelly July 27, 2013 at 12:14

I always seem to find things at the perfect time! Just the other day I was in one of my gardens weeding, and came across this adorable little plant that was just too pretty to pull. And then somehow a link to this blog post ended up on my Facebook newsfeed. Now I’m going to weed back a little further and try to create a new patch for my new found friend!
Thanks for a great article!

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48 RM McWilliams August 9, 2013 at 12:47

Purslane may make a good ‘live mulch’ for many of your other garden plants. As you probably know, most plants grow better in plant communities than surrounded by bare soil, or even mulch. The trick may be finding which are synergistic, and which are antagonistic! :) As you say, it’s very attractive, and so useful!

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49 Ryan August 12, 2013 at 22:11

Mistook spurge for purslane, before I could even swallow it my mouth felt aweful. I assume it was similar to a chemical burn due to the high alkaline content.

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50 Ellen September 2, 2013 at 13:01

We get a weed in our garden that fits the pictures and description perfectly, except that the leaves are opposite instead of alternate, and I have never seen the flower.

What could it be?

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51 Green Deane September 2, 2013 at 13:23

Could be a spurge.

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52 Emily Lorenzo September 16, 2013 at 10:15

Hello, Green Deane! I’ve enjoyed many of your videos and have happily also viewed them with my mother and my sweetheart. They both have very much enjoyed the videos, too. Thanks for all you do! I am writing to ask about when I can eat some purslane that I found by the dumpster in my apartment complex. I’d say it’s been a couple months since I dug up three small plants and replanted them in a pot. They have increased in size quite a bit. Can we start eating them now? Also, will the roots outgrow the pot?

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53 Green Deane September 16, 2013 at 20:58

Oh yeah…. the’ve grown in a more wholesome environment. It wouldn’t bother me.

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54 D F October 6, 2013 at 18:09

Something eating the leaves on my purslane leaves. Looks like small white worms. They are destroying the whole patch. Any way to treat them? Please help thanks

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55 Redbird Fan November 14, 2013 at 23:12

Stumbled into your site, while searching for apple cider information. Thank you very much! … then, noticed with interest your quotation from Thoreau’s words about purslane. Purslane is regularly found, without being planted, in plots at Concord’s oldest community garden location — perhaps a mile from Thoreau’s old corn patch. I was lucky enough that the first person I asked about weed identification, when a first time gardener there, showed me purslane and told me that it was edible. I take some home with me after every weeding session, and let it grow in some spots in my plot where I think it is not competing much with the planted veggies and herbs. Delicious! A local organic farm stand has sold some of it from time to time.

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56 Dick Estes January 5, 2014 at 11:26

What about the edibility of the violet purslanes- we have more of them here in Florida than the yellow

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57 Green Deane January 6, 2014 at 19:47

I think you mean Portulaca pilosa. I don’t eat it because it burns my throat and upsets my stomach. I have had people tell me they eat it but I can’t personally verify that. My advice is leave it alone. If you try it, you are on your own.

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58 Josie February 26, 2014 at 05:16

Thank you for the wealth of information. I have only recently discovered
Purslane when I bought a bunch from my local
Organic green grocer. I put it in my green smoothie, of course
with all the other ingredients, I hardly notice the purslane taste.
No matter, I know it’s good for me.

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59 Tom March 16, 2014 at 22:51

I am very impressed with your site, and especially the diligence with which you answer the questions–sometimes the same one again and again.

I would like to take some wild purslane and cultivate it. But, around here at least, it *really * likes to hug the ground tightly and sprawl loosely, not only making a huge footprint but letting a lot of light pass through to the dirt below. Not very productive in a garden I thought of trying to train it to grow up a trellis or something similar, but my gut says it will object strenuously to this treatment. Any thoughts?

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60 Green Deane March 31, 2014 at 12:52

It does not climb.

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61 david mckenna March 24, 2014 at 20:49

I bought a house a year ago. I started to weed the front yard. later a friend told me that they are edible. yuou can buy the seeds on amazon

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62 matt April 23, 2014 at 07:19

Is Portulacaria afra( Elephant bush) equally as edible?
I have been searching for true purslane and mistook afra as a false positive at my local homedepot succulent section. I saw an article suggesting one may juice it but nobody has suggested its a good purslane replacement

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63 Green Deane April 23, 2014 at 08:54

Portulaca afra leaves are edible.

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