Purslane or Portulaca oleracea is an annual succulent plant commonly found in backyards all across the United States. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture labels it as a weed, it is actually a powerful superfood, with a wonderful taste (even many restaurants have started to use it!).
Many nutritionists call it a miracle food for its long list of nutrients, the most important being the abundance of Omega-3 fatty acids. And the best thing is – you can harvest it yourself, and eat it raw or cooked.
Nutritional Value of Purslane
According to the USDA, 1 cup or about 43 grams of raw purslane (see photo above) has the following nutrients:
28 mg Calcium
29 mg Magnesium
19 mg Phosphorus
212 mg Potassium
A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition also found it incredibly rich in Omega-3s with 300-400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid in 100 grams of purslane (higher level than in spinach). 100 grams of purslane contains 12.2 mg of Vitamin E, 26.6 mg of Vitamin C, 1.9 mg of beta-carotene, and 14.8 mg of glutathione (an antioxidant).
Because purslane a nutrition powerhouse, it has some amazing healing properties.
- Purslane can prevent headaches that are caused by magnesium deficiency. Eating it every day is a way to get your magnesium intake up, which will reduce the chance of getting a headache.
- High magnesium levels also make it great for heart health. And consuming about 250 mg of magnesium daily lowers blood pressure. (There is about 30 mg of magnesium in one cup of purslane).
- The plant can give you a quick immune boost due to its high levels of vitamins and minerals, including calcium and magnesium.
- It can be used as a caffeine antidote for when you drink too much caffeine. It will help reduce the symptoms of feeling jittery and sleeplessness.
- Studies have shown that purslane helps stabilize blood sugar.
- High levels of Omega-3s help healthy child development and decrease the risk of developmental disorders.
How to Forage or Grow, and Harvest Purslane
“…Anyone who has a vegetable garden this year, the purslane will grow as a weed in it. They should not really throw it out. They should eat it,” said Dr. Artemis Simopoulos, president of the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health in Washington.
Purslane grows almost everywhere from the United States and Canada to Europe, Australia, and South Africa. It grows during the hottest month of the year, does not need much water to grow, but struggles with too much rain or not enough sun. This plant will often sneak in between other plants, or between cracks on sidewalks and driveways.
Purslane grows from one central root, but then spreads out in all directions, often hugging the ground, but sometimes shooting up towards the sun (however, it never reaches high). The stems of purslane range from green to pink and red with shiny green rounded-teardrop shaped leaves located at regular intervals.
If you would like to grow purslane, you can grow it from the black seeds you can find on a purslane plant.
Just wash the whole plant in a bowl, and the black seeds will end up in the water. Take the water and pour it on top of soil, either in your garden, or in a box on a windowsill or on a balcony. Water again in a day or two. Water every other day until you see little seedlings poking out from the ground – that is your purslane!
WARNING: Purslane does have a poisonous look-a-like. A plant called spurge looks similar but has much thinner stems and leaves. But do not worry, there is an extremely easy way to tell purslane and spurge apart. When you break the stem of spurge, a white sap will appear. When you break purslane’s stem, you will get nothing.
Cooking with Purslane
The taste some describe as a combination of cucumber and green beans, others more of a spinach taste. Fun fact: the earlier in the morning purslane is picked, the more sour it will taste.
It can be eaten raw in salads, or added to soups and stir-fries. For a more experimental cook, it can be used in omelets, with meat dishes, tossed into pasta or thrown on top of a pizza.
Here are a few recipes you can try:
The One Side Effect to Consider
The only side effect to be concern with when it comes to purslane is the high levels of oxalic acids, which increases the risk of developing kidney stones in those people who already have a kidney stone problem.
Watch a fellow gardener identify purslane:
Sources for this article include Eat Local Grown and several other websites that have shared or written similar viral articles on this amazing plant.