Summer Purslane is a fast-growing herbaceous annual with thick, fleshy, oval leaves. It was highly esteemed in ancient Egypt and cultivated in Europe as far back as the Middle Ages, but fell victim to alternatives like spinach. Purslane is now cultivated only on a small scale in France, Belgium, and Holland for specialized connoisseurs in the US.
The original wild plant had small green leaves and a sprawling habit; but cultivated, it grows upright to around 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) tall and produces large fleshy leaves. Young plants have a green stem, but, with maturity, stems take on reddish tints. Blooming in the summer, the five petalled, tiny yellow flowers hide between the base of the leaf and the stem.
Golden Purslane can be used raw in salads, sautéed as a side dish or cooked like spinach. In addition to the crispy texture you would expect from a succulent, purslane also has an interesting nutty, peppery flavour and is salty on the tongue. It is a wonderfully succulent and cooling herb to eat in the heat of the summer; the tangy leaves make a very nice contrast, in texture as well as taste, to other salad leaves.
Purslane is available in both Green and Golden leaved cultivars. There is no difference in taste between the two forms. Do not expect brilliant hues, the gold isn’t noticeable unless it is growing beside the green form. The French, who use the plant extensively, prefer to grow the golden form which is considered to be less hardy but more succulent.
Sowing: Sow from March to August.
Purslane prefers a well drained soil in a warm, sunny position. Although the plants will tolerate very dry conditions, regular watering will much improve the quality of the crop.
Sow Mid March to July indoors or in a propagator and keep at 20°C (68°F). Purslane is easy to grow and germinates when soil temperatures reach about 18°C (60°F) Transplant into their growing position in late summer.
Broadcast or sow in shallow drills 5 x 15cm (2½ x 6in) directly where they are to grow when all danger of frost is over, from late May to August
Sow the seeds thinly and rake the seeds in lightly and keep well watered. The seeds germinate very quickly. Thin the seedlings to 10cm apart. When they reach 5 to 7cm (2 to 3in) in height cut them back close to the ground.
Harvest: June to Oct.
In order to preserve purslane's juiciness, harvest in the morning or evening. Collect the most tender tips and side shoots and keeping them whole.
Whilst being particularly attractive in salads, the leaves and stems, as with the above, can also be stir-fried, sautéed, used in casseroles, omelettes, fritters and can even be used as a substitute for Okra.
In Turkey, the stems are discarded while the tender tips and side shoots of purslane is used in a sort of tsatsiki. This is served with borek (cheese and filo pastry straws) to start off a meal. The crunch of the purslane, the hit of the garlic and the creaminess of the yoghurt, dipped into with bread is delicious.
In times past the leaves were pickled and steamed for use as a cooked vegetable.
Purslane contains a very high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid, one of the highly sought-after Omega-3 fatty acids, which are instrumental in regulating our metabolism. Generally, vegetarian, and vegan, diets are low in ALA
Purslane provides a variety of nutrients including minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous. The stems are very high in vitamins A and C. The plant contains 3.5 milligrams of iron per 100 grams, several times the concentration in spinach. Historically purslane has been used as a poultice for burns, to alleviate insect stings, and to soothe sores. A syrup made with the juice was purported to be helpful in treating dry coughs (Grieve).
Purslane originally comes from India, where it was a food crop centuries ago. It was Gandhi's favorite food. It is now labelled as a ‘refound’ herb rather than a new one. In Europe, it was considered to have powers of happiness, luck, love and sleep. It was used as a protection against magic and was placed around sleeping areas.
Almost every country has Purslane growing wild. It is commonly found as a low growing, creeping weed around the Mediterranean. If picking plants from the wild, beware of spurge, a poisonous creeping wild plant that sometimes grows near purslane. The differences are that the spurge has a stem that is wiry, not thick, and it gives off a white, milky sap when you break it.
Purslane has a wonderful survival tactic: The succulent (juicy) stem, keeps it from drying out. If someone decides purslane is a "weed" and uproots it, it uses the water in the stem to make seeds before it dies.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2.5 grams Average Seed Count 7,500 Seeds Common Name Summer Purslane, Garden purslane.
Ancient Crop. In use since the 1600's
Other Common Names Kitchen-garden purslane, Purple-flowered purslane, Common purslane, Verdolaga Family Portulacaceae Genus Portulaca Species olearacea Cultivar Green Purslane Hardiness Hardy Annual Height 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) tall Position Purslane prefers a well drained soil in a warm, sunny position Time to Sow Sow from March to August. Time to Harvest Harvest June to October