Purslane or portulaca oleracea, also known as duckweed, is a succulent, annual herb that thrives in many countries as a weed due to its ability to grow in poor soil. The herb is edible and is usually eaten as a cooked vegetable or sprinkled over stews, salads, and soups.
Note: Purslane is similar to euphorbia vermiculata or hairy-stemmed spurge which is a poisonous plant. Hairy-stemmed spurge can be identified by a milky sap which is evident when you squeeze the stem. On the other hand, purslane has a thick, reddish stem and green, succulent leaves.
Duckweed not only possesses great antibacterial and antioxidant properties but is also packed with important nutritive components such as omega-3 fatty acids which are great for boosting the body’s immune system. Omega-3s are a category of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids. Since the body does not make essential fatty acids, you must get them from the food you eat. Unfortunately, the average American diet is usually low on fatty acids which expose many people to conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Purslane is also rich in vitamin E. Actually, the herb contains 6 times the amount of vitamin E compared to spinach and 7 times the amount of beta carotene in carrots. The plant is also rich in magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and riboflavin as well as phosphorus.
Purslane has edible stems (when tender), leaves and flowers. It has a similar taste to spinach or watercress and can be substituted for pickles or lettuce. According to Patryk Battle, a market gardener in North Carolina, purslane is so tasty that anybody who tries it never hesitates to buy the herb. In addition, purslane’s high levels of pectin, which make it heart-friendly, is also great for thickening soups and stews. Since it can get slimy when overcooked, it is always advisable to add it to dishes when they are almost done.
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Purslane recipes include:
Purslane and parsley salad
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon of salt
6 cups tender purslane leaves, blossoms, and stems
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
3 tablespoon olive oil
½ pound cherry tomatoes-halved or quartered
4 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
Process: Whisk oil, salt, lemon juice, shallot and pepper in a large bowl. Throw in purslane, tomatoes, and parsley. Toss gently to coat and serve.
While purslane seems like a common flowering weed and a nuisance to most people, it is uncommonly good for you as it tops the list of plants with high nutritive value. So, how about ordering some for your garden or kitchen?