A Disease-Fighting Weed

By Cary Neff, Experience Life

Purslane is said to have been one of Mahatma Gandhiâ’s favorite foods. But here in the United States it’s widely considered a weed. It’s time to put this nutritional plant on our plates instead of the compost pile.

Food Basics
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea), also called miner’s lettuce, pigweed and hogweed, is a succulent ground cover that grows wild throughout North America. Its leaves and stems, which may be bland or tart, taste like a slightly peppery cucumber. The tear-shaped leaves can be ultra-thin and tender or broad and fibrous. Harvested in midsummer, purslane’s smooth, green or red stems are slender and delicate. At the end of the growing season, the thick stems are tough and stringy and should be discarded. This delicious vegetable can be gathered in many places, does well in most home gardens, and is becoming more available in farmers’ markets, ethnic markets and restaurants.

Nutritional Know-How
Purslane’s leaves are high in alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid we usually get from fish or flaxseed. It also contains small amounts of EPA and DHA, longer-chain omega-3s rarely found in any food except fish and fish oil. Omega-3s nourish brain cells and may decrease the risk of depression, hyperactivity, migraines and Alzheimer’s disease (some promising studies have also shown that omega-3s might ameliorate the symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mood disorders). They also support the immune system, prevent inflammation and some types of cancer, lower cholesterol (LDL), and help the body regulate blood pressure and clotting. They’ve been found helpful in treating type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Purslane is also a source of calcium, potassium, iron, glutathione, essential amino acids, and vitamins E, C and A. Pregnant women should avoid purslane since it can cause the uterine muscles to contract.

Next: 6 ways to eat purslane, plus kitchen tips

Eat Up!

For a flavorful salad, toss raw purslane with other lettuces, like arugula, butter lettuce, spinach, mache or romaine. Add a lightly sweet and tart dressing, such as honey mustard.

  • Enhance ordinary mayonnaise-based salads — chicken, egg, tuna, shrimp and turkey — by replacing celery with chopped purslane sprigs and stems.
  • Use purslane in sandwiches instead of lettuce.
  • Raw purslane makes an attractive garnish.
  • In recipes that call for watercress, try purslane instead.
  • Stir purslane into soups and stews, just as you would use spinach.
  • To cook, steam purslane for one to two minutes. Or saute it in a hot pan with olive oil until it’s lightly wilted. Serve as a side dish.

Kitchen Tricks

  • Refrigerate purslane in an open plastic bag with a paper towel at the bottom. It will keep for about a week.
  • Before eating, cut off roots. Soak leaves and stems in cold water to remove any dirt, then dry. Cut off and discard heavy stems.
  • Because of purslane’s variable tastes, always sample it before using it in raw or cooked recipes. Younger small leaves will be sweeter and more delicate. If the purslane has matured and has larger stems, make sure the flavor is not too strong for your palate.

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Veenaexact K.
Veenaexact K.3 years ago

Hi, Care 2 please let me know, How to get the purslane seeds? If any Idea please send the mail to my ID veenaexact@gmail.com

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey3 years ago

I remember as a child eating the leaves of a particular wild plant. The flavor was distinctly tart, not in a bad way, not bitter at all. I wonder if this was the plant

Lin Moy
Lin M4 years ago

I could use a lot of this....

Jewels S.
Jewels S.5 years ago

I need a yard to grow things. Thanks for the info.

Gita Sasi Dharan
Gita Sasi Dharan5 years ago

Thank you for the information.

Alice B.
Alice B.5 years ago

I find that best storage for this type of "weed" a.k.a. valuable plant is in Marie Meyers' "Green Bags." Rinse in colander, shake & drain 'dry' and place into bags, seal, put in fridge. These amazing bags keep produce and harvested plants fresh MUCH longer than regular/plastic bags. And, thank goodness, these Green Bags are easy to wash and reuse for ages; the only reason to buy new ones is if one accidentally tears or pokes a whole in a Green Bag. TRY THEM!! They are available at Whole Foods, health food coops, and even mainstream stores. (You can get your fave store to order them for you if need be; I did that until the store chose to stock them regularly as a popular item.) Another way to "go green" - and have handy, reusable storage for your harvested wild plants as well! :)

Alicia N.
Alicia N.5 years ago

Thanks for the tips my dear.

Philippa P.
Philippa P.5 years ago


Joy Wong
Joy Wong5 years ago


Lynn Marie M.
Lynn Marie M.5 years ago

Great info thanks!