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


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


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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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen Juten July 30, 2017 at 21:13

Great article.


Karen Juten July 30, 2017 at 21:12

The recipe you gave for boiling throwing the water out and then cooking, and cooking….Me thinks you know that the vitamins and omega 3’s probably didn’t fare well after all of that cooking. Eat fresh? In a salad?


Green Deane July 31, 2017 at 17:53

I usually eat it raw. That said, cooking in water does not affect its omega 3 content nor vitamin A.


L. Conrad July 30, 2017 at 11:51

We have way too much purslane in garden it is free if anyone wants to pick your own – Kenilworth Ontario


kw July 19, 2017 at 21:30

Apparently Nature is trying to tell me something… purslane has been OVERTAKING my garden! I’ve been throwing it out for the past 2-3 years until I learned how nutritious it is. My garden is like a carpet of purslane! I picked a lot (too much, as I got tired of picking leaves off, but now I’ll try eating the stems). From now on I’ll just let it grow, I’ll try not to step on it, and pick as needed. Maybe I’ll save some seeds just in case I pick it to death this year. So far I had it 2 ways: in an Indian dal dish with red adzuki beans, and in a cold chickpea salad with celery, onions, and mayo (& mustard, S&P; the “fake tuna” you may see here & there). I am so happy to know such a healthy thing is abundant right under my nose 🙂 Thanks for your article.


rachel January 4, 2017 at 10:55

Hi there – do you have suggestions where I can purchase the actual herb for eating? many thanks for your help, Rachel.


donna August 29, 2016 at 21:26

I bought mine at walmart today is this the same ? edible I do know it is beautiful to look at , how do you know which is edible ?


Proud Gramma January 6, 2016 at 12:28

I live in S FL and had been looking everywhere for this favorite from up north, and finally found it growing out of a crack in pavement in a flooded area of a parking lot! Crazy! I recently found another growing in another parking lot area this time in the mulched beds, and took both home. Though they are both definitely purslane, one has a larger and more open growth, paler stem, and tends to seed and lose it’s leaves, where the other is more compact with a red stem, and has not died back like the other one. I’ve had them for almost a year so it isn’t just the environment I took them from like I first thought. Are there different types that you know of?.


Green Deane January 6, 2016 at 14:34

Thanks for writing. There is a cultivated version but even among wild versions they appearance can vary a lot.


Claudia October 28, 2015 at 19:53

Can you eat too much of purslane and is there another plant that can be confused for purslane?


Green Deane October 28, 2015 at 23:48

Hmmmm…not unintentionally… there is no accounting for extremism. There are several spurges that resemble purslane but they have white sap. There are other Portulacas which I think are not edible but they are not deadly or sickening beyond minor symptoms.


Mike Pellerin September 29, 2015 at 01:23

I’ve tried growing this from seed several times. I get the plants to the second set of leaves stage, then they just flop over and die. I live in Central MA. I get good sun, plenty of water and was using new soil.

I find some wild around here, but the areas are too polluted to take plants/cuttings from.


Green Deane September 29, 2015 at 06:26

I have found the commercial version of purslane to be disappointing. As for wild purslane you can certainly collect the seeds from “polluted” one and grow edible plants from them. Or, transplant some of those “polluted” ones into your yard and let them grow and seed. The next crop will be edible.


Virginia September 23, 2015 at 18:25

I found this growing in a box of dirt where I am growing a lemon tree from a seed; found it to be an attractive weed and gave it it’s own pot. I’m going to go have a little taste right now!


shanarose September 20, 2015 at 14:57

i would love to make purslane a specialty crop to sell to restaurants in the area. would you know if anyone grows this commercially? i have a home based plant nursery but growing purslane commercially seems like such a great idea to me. i love purslane and have known of its nutritional value for years. so sad it is classified as a weed, much like the dandelion. two great foods. i would love to elevate the purslane to the status it deserves …..


Green Deane September 21, 2015 at 09:58

There is a commercial variety you can buy seeds for. It is called Purslane Goldberger.


fuz42 September 15, 2015 at 14:28

“Buttocks of the chief’s wife” Im still laughing!


Cristian Sarabia September 15, 2015 at 12:46

In the Los Angeles area, you can find purslane at all you’re Mexican markets. And you can get some nice recipes from your local shoppers.


Green Deane September 15, 2015 at 14:15

That is the point, isn’t it. They sell it everywhere in Mexico, you have to go to speciality markets in the US to find it. It’s not a common produce, unfortunately.


Max September 13, 2015 at 13:01

I container garden in hot dry California conditions. I use purslane in container gardening around the edges of my planters to prevent the sun from baking the moisture out of my soil. The mat of purslane is like a layer of insulation for the soil. Elsewhere I use a topical layer of wood chips and/or hay. I keep the purslane trimmed/eaten, so it doesn’t compete much with my main crops. It tends to colonize small areas and not get too invasive unless you give it many months or years untamed. Great salad addition.


Courtney September 10, 2015 at 13:41

May I ask where the information came from about purslane’s omega 3 content? I can’t find any nutritional data to support that it has any (USDA, http://nutritiondata.self.com, etc.) but I do see several articles sight this but with not reference to back it up. Just curious and trying to make sure it’s true!!


chris September 16, 2015 at 11:05

Look on Pubmed. Purslane, Omega 3


M5th September 9, 2015 at 08:53

We moved in March to a new house. I remember this “weed” in my other house and all I knew was it was good for chickens. Is this the same weed? Now in my new house, I haven’t seen it growing anywhere. Just a lot of nut grass, ugh!


Richard April 13, 2016 at 01:20

M5th — The nut grass you mention is very likely Yellow Nutsedge (or purple nutsedge?) and is edible. Almost the size of peanuts, they are usually roasted. They taste a little like almonds. Pernicious as they are, like most weeds there is a history somewhere, sometime, of having been grown and harvested before earning a reputation of “weed.”


Kai August 22, 2015 at 16:53

Hi Green Deane,
Thanks for your site.
in regards to : ” 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. “.. where can I find further info on this?
I have a bundant purslane growing in my back yard in Florida and eat a hand full every day for chest issues. I am wondering how much is actually edible> How much is 3 oz.. and is that every day? or 3 times a day ? 🙂 🙂 🙂
whats your thoughts… ?


wanda twining-jones June 19, 2016 at 13:27

I have oral lichen planus. My dental hygenist said she thinks purslane might help clear it up. Could this true?


Korrina July 23, 2016 at 12:28

I couldn’t find any references to what AMA based medicine uses to treat or what is thought to cause this, but I can assure you that this common weed is a pleasant to eat vegetable, and that it contains MANY nutrients that we need… I would try to get some if I were you, but be sure to try to use it raw rather than cooked, as some of the nutrients are heat sensitive… I like to pick it the night before I’ll use it, and marinade it with tomatoes, etc…


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