Purslane is considered a weed here in the U.S. but this year it is the ONLY weed I ALLOW in the vegetable garden. That’s right. I allow this weed to grow freely anywhere it wants. Purslane has been eaten in Mexico and Europe for years where it is not considered a weed and the gold miners in California at the turn of the century ate it as well. Hence it is called Miner’s lettuce also.
What most people don’t know is that it tastes good too. I took a bite of it in the garden and it has a sort of lemony taste and was very juicy as it is a succulent. One of my friends told me their mother use to saute it with a little garlic, salt and red chili pepper flakes and eat it with her pinto beans. Now that sounds tasty enough! I also heard people mix it in their salads which I can imagine also as I liked the taste of it raw. And best of all, it has the highest Omega-3 amino acids of any vegetable, in fact higher than salmon! What a great way to get our Omega -3’s! So pull this weed out and eat it. But if you grow it, pull it out before it reseeds itself or grow it in an area you don’t care about.
The other Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, is considered a common weed in most of the U.S but did you know it is also edible? Look how different it looks from the cultivated types I just posted about. I want to write about both aspects of it as a food source and also as a weed. Purslane thrives in New Mexico where the dry climate is conducive to its needs. The plant looks like a succulent with its thick reddish, flesh colored stems and milky leaves. It has a long taproot and produces a yellow flower with many seeds.
closeup of purslane weed-photo from gardenguides.com
This purslane is edible (like the cultivated types from Europe) when young and can be used in salads or cooked like greens. It is more and more being discovered as a food source and is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and antioxidants. In fact it has more Omega-3 fatty acids than many fish. For those of you who are strict vegetarians and don’t want to eat fish, this might be a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids for you. For more information on health benefits, go here or here. So next time you pull it, you might try it in a salad or steamed. The stems, leaves and flowers are edible so maybe next time I see it flowering (before it seeds) I will pick them and put them in a salad. The plant just doesn’t look that appealing to me, but more and more people are eating it.
Now as a weed, it IS considered a nuisance here in NM. It does produce a deep taproot but I find if I just take my hoe and chop it off at the ground when it first germinates, or pull it before it seeds, I can control it. If you let it go to seed, it can be invasive. The older the plant, the harder it is to pull that taproot out and you will need a shovel to completely remove it. Make sure you pick up all stem pieces as it can reproduce itself from them as well. Don’t put in your compost because of this.
So is it a weed or a food source? Depends on who you talk to!