Purslane

Tonielle Christensen Edible Plants, Land & Nature Stewardship

Purslane


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Common Name:  Purslane, Pigweed, Common Purslane, Pussley, Pursley, Pressley, Wild Portulaca, Little Hogweed, Verdolaga, Red Root, Moss Rose, Green Purslane.

Latin Name:  Portulaca oleracea.

Origin:  Europe, Asia.

Description (what it looks like):  A hardy, easy to grow, perennial in the tropics, forming a mat like cover that sprawls along the ground, up to 20 cm high.  Succulent stems and leaves, often with a tinge of red.  Oval leaves to 3cm long form in clusters and small flowers form at the notes and ends of stems.  Flowers are a bright orange to red colour.  ‘Jade’ and ‘Sun Jewel’ are other similar edible varieties.

Uses (function):  Good fodder source for pigs, cattle, poultry & goats.  Hardy edible ground cover layer for a permaculture system.  Great as a no-maintenance edging plant.  Some consider it a weed, as it can reproduce rapidly and form dense vegetative mats that screen out light to the soil’s surface, preventing other seedlings from emerging.

Nutritional value:  Young leaves are extremely rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin E, as well as a source of Vitamin A, Iron, Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium plus Vitamin B1, B2, B6 and D.  Valued for increasing milk supply in nursing mothers.  Used to treat and prevent scurvy with its high ascorbic acid properties.  Extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, which benefit the immune system, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and even a range of psychological disorders.  Plant juices are applied to the skin to aid in the treatment of skin irritations, diseases, or insect stings; they have also been used to treat coughs.  Contains oxalic acid, so best avoided by those suffering from kidney disorders, gout and rheumatoid arthritis.

Growing details (propagation, seed etc):  It is very easy to propagate from cuttings of 10-25 cm long.  Root these in a glass of water or just pushed into moist soil.  Strip the leaves off the bottom half of the stems and bury to half their length, spacing approximately 60cm apart.

Best time to grow:  Take cuttings and plant during the wet season or spring.

Soil:  Any soil, in any climate, without fertilizer.

Sun:  It grows in sun or shade.

Water:  Hardy in drought or wet, but prefers warm, moist areas.

How to eat it:  The crunchy, tangy, nutritious leaves are mild in flavor and slightly sour. Use leaves fresh added to salads, yogurt, stir-fries, quiche, egg dishes, soups and pickled as a caper substitute.  The leaves and stems are eaten raw or cooked.  Their mucilaginous quality makes them a good substitute for okra as a thickener in soups.  Leaves are described by different sources as sour, salty and spicy, lemon-like, or mushroom-like.  Seeds, which have fairly high fat and protein content and are high in iron, are ground into a powder and mixed with cereals.

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