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HOW TO IDENTIFY AND USE:white spacer imageCommon Purslane - A GREAT EDIBLE Garden Weed
Copyright:  Mike Sillett

Contents:

1. Intro
2. Description
3. Summary

Title Photo - Common Purslane In the Garden

1. Intro

If you have a garden and if there is bare ground in that garden than more than likely you will find common purslane growing there.

Purslane is a persistant growing plant, devilishly hardy, and once recognized you will forever be seeing it growing everywhere.
If you are like me than you have been ripping it out as a weed for years and throwing it on the compost pile. What a waste.

For a thousand years or more it was quite a popular edible. In other countries it still is. In America it used to be also.
What could have happened that most people do not know of it's benefits?

During some intelligent beer conversations wih my golf buddies, when I ask about this plant, they all responded that they had no idea what it is. They also used to rip it out and throw it away, cursing it as a weed as they did.
NOT ANYMORE THOUGH.


2. Description

Portulaca oleracea

Common Purslane.

Also ' Verdolaga, Pigweed, Little Hogweed or Pusley'

I have been gardening for years and each year, during the height of the growing season, when the weeds really start to make their presence known, you will find this particular weed as one of them.
If you grab it early in it's growth it's easy to rip out so I have been managing for some time to keep it at bay.

However there was one year when I was overly busy with family matters and unable to get to the weeding chores for a couple of weeks.

Title Photo of a distant view of my garden with purslane being in front of the white bucket

My garden. The clump of matted purslane is just in the forefront of the large bucket.




Was I ever surprised when I got back to the chore though. Those little weed plants growing here and there had grown enough to become a matted mass of intermingled individual plants, as shown below. There were several of these mat clumps in various parts of the garden.

Photo of Common Purslane In the Garden

Closer view of the common purslane batch.

When they get matted like this you can't just hoe them anymore. All you will end up doing is chop them into little pieces and make it more time consuming to remove.

Photo of Common Purslane In the Garden, closer

Note the low growth nature and the reddish coloring of the stems.

Once out of control like shown you need to find the central part of the growth of each individual plant and pull it out. You should do this while the ground is nice and damp, not sloppy wet.

Photo of Common Purslane In the Garden

You can see the purslane just past the green pepper blossom.

Purslane grows by sending out stem growth from a central starting point. It grows very close to the ground for some time. Eventually you will have a plant that has several stems, all growing out in a radiating manner, like spokes in a bicycle wheel.

Photo of Common Purslane In the Garden - closer

The main stems have little stem offshoots which have thick little leaves on them.

The leaves are small and can best be described as thickish. Very succulent. The stems at first are green but as the plant matures the color slowly changes to a rhubarb like reddish color. Stems are about twice as thick as a spaghetti noodle.
Although the photos do not show flowers, when they do appear they are very small and yellow.

Photo of Common Purslane In the Garden - very close

A nice close-up of the common purslane plant.
This is prime picking condition now and excellent for eating.

In any case, this particular time in the garden, when performing this simple and common chore of pulling all these weeds I had an epiphany, that is, a sudden insight or thought that this weed may be a good edible. That I should look into it.

I gathered up some of the plants, took them to kitchen sink and washed them up. They looked real good.

Photo of common purslane cleaned up in the bowl.

Purslane all cleaned up and ready to eat. Either fresh or cooked is fine.

I can't remember for sure what word or phrase I Googled since I had no idea where to start but I managed to come up with hundreds of sites that describe the plant.

Since then I have been killing two birds with one stone, that is to say, while pulling the weeds in the garden I am also harvesting a very good edible item.
The photo below shows two different cooked plants. Purslane is on the left and lambsquarter on the right. Steamed and then butter added they are a welcome addition to the evening supper menu.

We eat these regularly now since that serendipitous moment.

Photo of purslane and lambsquarter, steamed with butter added.

Steamed and butter added. Purslane on left, lambsquarter on right.
The bonus in finding out that purslane is great garden produce is that I also discovered that lambsquarter is a great edible as well.

I could reiterate all the benefits of purslane that I discovered since I decided to find out what it was but I won't.

Suffice to say that it has more essential omega-3 fatty acid ( the same that is in fish oil ) than any other land plant, is high in vitamin A and C and taste great in any number of ways.
Do a Google search for this plant either using the common name or the Latin name and find out about it for yourself.


3. Summary

After knowing that the purslane plant is a fine edible it should behoove anyone that rips it from their garden to at least sample some of it before deciding to continue discarding it as an undesirable. At the least research it a bit further to learn more about it.

Here are the various ways we have been eating purslane in our house since a couple of years ago.
    ~ The leaves plucked from the stems and stored in a ziplock storage bag in the produce bin of the refrigerator provide a ready lettuce substitute for
        sandwiches.
    ~ Add the leaves to salad.
    ~ The stems from which the leaves were plucked go into a separate storage bag and used when we have spaghetti. If you steam the stems for a
        few minutes until hot you can use them as noodles along with your spaghetti noodles and then pour the sauce on top. You will end up eating less
        pasta because the purslane stems took the place of a noodle portion.
    ~ Steamed and butter added and eaten as a potherb like spinach.
    ~ Added to stew. Especially the flower buds. However the entire plant, chopped up into small pieces, works fine also. Purslane has a natural
        thickening agent in it so when added to stew it helps to make it more of a stew rather than soup.

Pick the purslane that you plan to eat in the late afternoon not the morning. It is tastier in the afternoon because of the plants idiosyncratic growth process.

Here is an interested anecdote about common purslane.
This summer, it was the end of June I believe, I was at our local Lowe's store loading up some Miracle Grow Potting Mixture into my cart and noticed a young lady with her cart loaded with potted purslane plants. I then saw that Lowe's had a 2 for a $1.00 special on potted plants of various certain varieties, one of which she was really stocked up with.
I commented to her that she was going to have a lot of work planting all those plants she had in her cart and she gave a lttle chuckle and responded
"I not going to plant them, they are going on the back porch railing just as they are, i'll water them as needed and we will be eating parts of them throughout the summer until done. Then I'll give the planters to my mother as a gardening present for her flowers. She'll love them"


Getting To Know Common Purslane, A Garden Weed That is Nutritious and Delicious

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