Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a succulent annual native to Persia and India. Widely regarded as a weed throughout the United States, purslane is often disregarded and killed to make way for more desirable plants. Growing from a single taproot, purslane forms mats of dark green, glossy foliage with tiny yellow leaves. Due to its ability to thrive in most any soil type, purslane grows everywhere from gardens to gravel-lined driveways.
Purslane, with flavor similar to spinach and watercress, adds flavor to salads, sandwiches, stews and a wide variety of Mediterranean, Asian and European recipes. Purslane leaves are eaten fresh, sautéed or steamed and can be preserved through pickling, drying or freezing. It's best to harvest purslane from plants grown specifically for culinary use to ensure that chemical pesticides and insecticides have not compromised the plants.
Purslane is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids; antioxidants; vitamins A, C and E; minerals and amino acids. Both the foliage and extracted liquids from the plant contain diuretic, anti-inflammatory and emollient properties. According to University of Connecticut Integrated Pest Management, Purslane has been used to treat headaches, coughs, burns, assorted digestive ailments and arthritis.
In the Landscape
Purslane creates a dense ground cover beneath taller plants in the garden and flower bed. Due to its massive spread, purslane blocks the growth of other weeds and increases moisture retention in the surrounding soil. However, due to its aggressive nature, great care must be taken to prevent purslane from going to seed.