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.
Powerful Seeds Grow in Many Climates
The seeds of purslane are so powerful they can stay viable in land for up to 40 years – and this is a natural crop – no GMO! It grows in a well-tended garden and in arid climates, often equally as well. This resilient plant poses similar benefits for our immune systems and overall health.
Often called pig weed (and it certainly would be better for your pigs than some of the GMO grain many farmers have been using to feed their livestock), Purslane has more beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids than many fish oils! The weed also has one of the highest levels of vitamin A among all leafy green vegetables (1320 IU/100 g, provides 44% of RDA). High Vitamin A foods can help protect us from many types of cancers and helps to boost eye health.
Furthermore, purslane is full of two different types of betalain alkaloid pigments – a reddish beta-cyanis and a yellow beta-xanthins, which are equally potent antioxidants and anti-mutagens. Also in purslane are vitamins C, and B-complex including riboflavin, pyridoxine, and niacin, as well as carotenoids, and trace minerals like iron, magnesium, and calcium.
With all these nutritional benefits, and the large amounts of money we spend on supplements to better our health, it seems purslane should be elevated from weed status to health-boosting, everyday food. Purslane packs a powerful nutritional punch, for certain.
Purslane and Parsley Salad
You might run across purslane, with its glossy, plump leaves, at a farmers market—and you might even find it growing in the cracks of your sidewalk or in your yard. Luckily, this incredibly nutritious and juicy green is a weed, which means it pops up wild nearly everywhere. Lots of chopped parsley and a simple vinaigrette flatter its herbal, lemony crunch.
- Yield Makes 6 servings
- Active Time 30 min
- Total Time 30 min
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes (preferably assorted heirloom varieties), halved or quartered if large
6 cups packed tender purslane sprigs and leaves (from a 1-pound bunch)
4 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves (from 2 large bunches)
Whisk together oil, lemon juice, shallot, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large bowl.
Add tomatoes, purslane, and parsley, gently tossing to coat.
Purslane and Avocado Tacos with Pico de Gallo
Purslane has long been considered a weed, but it is increasingly showing up for sale in bunches at farmers markets. Meanwhile, Mexicans have known about its healthful properties for hundreds of years and they eat it both raw and cooked. In Mexico it’s called verdolagas. Cooking mellows its tang and shrinks it, which means you can eat more of it! Paired with avocado and a tomato relish, this is a super-healthy vegetarian snack or main dish.
For Pico de Gallo:
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste
2 teaspoons minced fresh Serrano chile, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Freshly ground pepper
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb purslane, including tender upper stems, chopped (about 6 cups)
8 fresh corn tortillas
1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese (about 3 ounces), or to taste
cilantro sprigs and lime wedges for serving
Make Pico de Gallo:
Combine tomatoes, onion, lime juice, chile, and cilantro in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let it stand while assembling the tacos.
Cook garlic in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until pale golden. Add purslane with salt to taste and cook, stirring, until wilted and tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a sieve set over a bowl and let it drain.
Have a folded kitchen towel ready for the tortillas. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot, then heat a tortilla, keeping the others covered, flipping it occasionally with tongs, until it puffs slightly and gets brown in spots, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer tortilla, as toasted, to towel, enclosing it, and repeat with remaining tortillas. Keep them warm in towel.
Quarter avocados lengthwise and remove pit, then peel. Cut each section into thin slices (lengthwise or crosswise, it doesn’t matter) and season with salt.
Assemble tacos by spooning some purslane into a folded taco and topping it with avocado slices, cotija cheese, cilantro sprigs, and pico de gallo. Serve with lime wedges.
Purslane, Meyer Lemon, and Pear Salad with Kaffir Lime Vinaigrette
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, 1 or 2 tough outer leaves discarded and root end trimmed
3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
1 small (1 1/2- to 2-inch) dried chile (preferably Thai)
6 (2- by 1 1/4-inch) fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
1 teaspoon minced fresh chervil
1 teaspoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Meyer lemon
6 firm-ripe small Seckel pears (3/4 pound total)
6 radishes, trimmed
3/4 pound purslane, coarse stems discarded
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Fleur de sel to taste
Accompaniment: jasmine rice crackers
Special equipment: a Japanese Benriner or other adjustable-blade slicer
Cut peel, including white pith, from lemon with a small sharp knife. Working over a bowl to catch juices, cut lemon segments free from membranes, letting segments drop into bowl.
Crush lemongrass stalk with side of a heavy knife (to release oils), then thinly slice. Bring stock, lemongrass, and chile to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan. Cover pan and remove from heat, then let stand 20 minutes.
Return to a boil and add lemon segments with juice and lime leaves. Cover pan and remove from heat, then let stand 20 minutes more.
Pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, discarding solids, then return to saucepan and whisk in oil. Bring vinaigrette to a boil and whisk in cornstarch mixture, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 2 minutes. Cool completely. Whisk in herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
Using slicer, cut Meyer lemon (with skin) crosswise, pears lengthwise (discarding cores), and radishes lengthwise into very thin slices (about 1/16 inch thick) and transfer to a large bowl. Add purslane, oil, lemon juice, and fleur de sel and pepper to taste and toss gently.
Divide salad among 6 plates and spoon vinaigrette over and around each. Serve salads with jasmine crackers on the side.