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Purslane

(Portulaca oleracea)

An herbaceous weed cultivated for centuries as a food source. Archaeologists have unearthed seeds and pollen from settlements dating back thousands of years. Native to India and Persia, fast growing easily transported seeds were brought to this, and other countries, by immigrants as an easy to cultivate food source.

I went to visit a friend one beautiful summer afternoon. As we sat on his deck overlooking his huge garden, drinking a cold beer he told me of the awful morning he had spent pulling weeds. He promptly asked me to follow him to his garden, where he proceeded to show me two large lawn waste recycling bags full of in his words, "those damned weeds". I looked in the bag and could not stop the smile from splitting my face. I asked him why he plants a garden. He looked at me like I was an idiot. I asked him to humor me, and answer my question. He said "for vegetables to eat". The "you idiot" part of his answer was implied. I said do you like to eat salad? Again he looked at me like I had lost my marbles, but simply said "yes", humoring me much the way you would a child. I said he had just spent the day pulling what is arguable the best salad green he will ever eat. He just looked at me like I had lost my mind. I continued without waiting for his response. This bag appears to be full of Purslane. He said it is, as a matter of fact the other bag is full of it as well. I reached in and grabbed a handful of the succulent plant, put it in my mouth, chewed it up, and swallowed it. He could not take it any longer; "are you nuts?" "Yes but that is beside the point" I answered. "Purslane is grown across the world as a food crop, and it has been for centuries." It is not native to the North America, but was rather brought here by immigrants as an easy to grow highly nutritious food source. It was not until the early 20th century that it fell from our diet, and was relegated to the status of obnoxious weed. At my insistence, he warily gave it a try. "Hey this is pretty good. It has a really mild flavor." I found out a while later that he then had his wife research Purslane on the internet. He called me to say I was right. That even his sister-in-law knew about Purslane.

There are many plants like this which have fallen from culinary and or apothecary grace. It is our job to restore them to their rightful glory. Follow the links below to find more information about using plants.

Range:

Identifying characteristics:

A creeping herbaceous plant, rarely exceeding 4" in height. This plant grows in large doily looking mats. It can quickly grow to take over a tilled or bare area. The succulent deep green leaves are lobe or tear drop shaped, and grow along reddish brown fleshy branched stems.

Habitat:

Sunny soils of cultivated and waste areas. Lawn edges, and cracks in concrete and bricks. It loves to grow in a beautifully weeded garden.

Parts Used:

Entire plant

Uses:

Wild Food Use:

If you are a gardener you are no doubt aware of the speed with which Purslane will take over freshly cultivated soil. Rather than pulling and throwing away this "weed", make use of this natural bounty, and make it the base of all of your salads. This is by far the best wild growing salad green I know of. Purslane has a very pleasant mild flavor. It is slightly lemony, and being a succulent, it has a very high water content, making it very refreshing on a hot summer day. I love nothing more than to make this the base of all of my summer salads. My favorite salad by far is a base of Purslane, chicory, dandelion, and wild lettuce. To which I add wood sorrel, white sweet clover, sliced Queen Anne's Lace roots, Black Nightshade berries (Solanum nigrum), and diced apple. I then dress it with my homemade cherry vinaigrette. I guarantee if you try this salad you will fall in love with wild edibles. Portulaca oleracea is very high in Vitamins A and C as well as the complex Bs; It also contains numerous beneficial minerals, and omega-3fatty acid, which are fantastic for your heart.

Medicinal Uses:

None Known

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Revised: 05/11/16 Living Afield