Purslane, also known as Portulaca oleracea, is considered a common weed to many that may even be growing in your garden right now, without your explicit invitation.
It started its cultivation in India and Persia, and spread to the rest of the world. Some cultures pluck it out and throw it away with leaf clippings and other weeds, while others cultivate it specifically to eat as food.
Purslane is an aesthetically attractive weed with fleshy leaves and often yellow flowers, but its health benefits are even more desirable.
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.