Purslane is native to India, brought over to America by colonists, and is widely cultivated in Asia and Europe today. It is one of my favorite wild edibles, with a tangy sweet and sour taste reminiscent of lemons.
Purslane is an annual succulent with a deep tap root, which allows it to grow in compact, disturbed soil and therefore is found in many gardens and lawns. It is a warm loving plant and appears in mid summer until the fall. The plant has thick pale red stems with alternate leaves, arranged in groups where the stem branches. Leaves are smooth and glossy and have a rounded lanceolate shape. Purslane is a ground cover that sprawls outward in a circle along the soil, reaching up to 2 feet wide.
Small yellow flowers with five petals form at the base of leaves at branches. The flowers then turn into bowl shaped capsules with numerous tiny black seeds inside.
Nutrition and Medicinal Qualities
Raw leaves of purslane contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other greens, and even more than some fish. It also is one of the highest sources of vitamin A, and quite high in vitamins C and B. The plant is rich in iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. It contains high levels of two betalain alkaloid pigments, which are anti-oxidants.
Harvesting and Preparation
It is edible at all ages, but the younger stems and leaves have a stronger, more pleasant taste. Purslane can be eaten raw, steamed, sauteed, or added to soups.
Tomato, Cucumber, Purslane Salad (from simplyrecipes.com)
1 large cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeds removed and discarded, then chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 bunch purslane, thick stems removed, leaves chopped, resulting in about 1/2 cup chopped purslane
1 minced seeded jalapeno chile pepper
2-3 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
Salt to taste
1. Combine all ingredients in a serving bowl. Salt to taste.