Power-Packed Purslane

Purslane is a tasty, easy-to-grow "weed," and a rich source of omega-3s.

  • Purslane
    Purslane is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
    Photo by Rosiland Creasy
  • About mid-July, purslane develops tiny, flowers about a quarter of an inch across that usually open only in full sunlight.
    Photo by Getty Images/kainio007
  • Wild purslane grows horizontally and forms flat, circular mats up to 16 inches across. Its round, thick stems radiate from the plant’s center and are often reddish at the base.
    Photo by Getty Images/seven75

  • Purslane

Common in our yards but little known in the North American kitchen, purslane is both delicious and exceptionally nutritious. Common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) — also known as duckweed, fatweed, pursley, pussley, verdolagas and wild portulaca — is the most frequently reported “weed” species in the world. It can grow anywhere that has at least a two-month growing season.

Until recently, most research on purslane has focused on its eradication. A frequently overlooked approach to controlling this weed is to eat it! Purslane is so surprisingly tasty, North Carolina market gardener Patryk Battle says, “I have rarely had anybody not buy purslane after they’ve tried it.”

Purslane is somewhat crunchy and has a slight lemony taste. Some people liken it to watercress or spinach, and it can substitute for spinach in many recipes. Young, raw leaves and stems are tender and are good in salads and sandwiches. They can also be lightly steamed or stir-fried. Purslane’s high level of pectin (known to lower cholesterol) thickens soups and stews.

Battle also uses purslane in pesto. He throws basil and purslane (upper stems and all) into a blender or food processor, adds a small amount of olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and enough hot water to get a good consistency. Because it’s so juicy, purslane helps create a low-fat pesto without too much oil.

A Nutrient-Rich Weed

Purslane may be a common plant, but it is uncommonly good for you. It tops the list of plants high in vitamin E and an essential omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Purslane provides six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. It’s also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus.

Omega-3s are a class of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids. Your body cannot manufacture essential fatty acids, so you must get them from food. Unfortunately, the typical American diet contains too few omega-3s, a shortage that is linked to a barrage of illnesses including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

10/30/2020 3:25:27 PM

We have plenty growing wild, but I am curious if any variety of grandiflora is palatable? I'm given to understand that the only reason they tell you it is not edible is that it is bitter. I find it handy for planting next to the road and other such difficult places. It would be nice if it could be eaten as well as being pretty and crazy hardy.

8/24/2018 5:20:56 AM

Nothing here about being careful not to harvest the poisonous look-alike to purslane. I happened to come upon that first thankfully, so at least I knew there was a danger if I picked the wrong one without knowing there was a similar plant! The look-alike is called hairy stemmed spurge (Euphorbia vermiculata) and you can find out more here: https://www.ediblewildfood.com/poisonous-plants.aspx#spurge

8/24/2018 5:03:16 AM

I'm very surprised that there is nothing about the poisonous look-alike to purslane. The look-alike plant is called "Hairy-Stemmed Spurge (Euphorbia vermiculata)". You can find out more here: https://www.ediblewildfood.com/poisonous-plants.aspx#spurge To me, if there is a poisonous plant that is any way similar to a plant you're suggesting can be eaten - then AT LEAST tell folks there is a poisonous one and how to make sure you can tell the difference between them.

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