With the arrival of spring, it’s only a matter of time before weeds pop up everywhere. While many gardeners consider them to be undesirable, most are nutritious and delicious foods. In these times of uncertainty, it’s reassuring that we can find food sources outside of a grocery store. Purslane, Portulaca oleracea is one edible weed to discover with many different culinary uses and health benefits.
Who knew that weeding your garden could be so rewarding and fill your plate with nutritious food?
Bountiful, Nutritious, Free!
Purslane (AKA Little Hogweed) is a common weed that spreads and crawls throughout the garden and between the cracks of a patio. A member of the succulent family, it’s drought-tolerant and resilient enough to grow in even the harshest conditions.
Purslane was eaten for centuries in many parts of the world before being forgotten. But today, the weed is making a comeback, finding its way from the compost pile to farmer’s markets and high-end restaurants.
This edible weed tastes delicious and is very nutritious. It has recently been identified as one of the richest vegetable sources of alpha-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid. According to some research, it contains more omega-3 fatty acids than fish. Omega-3’s are crucial for good health; they can reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, fight inflammation, and improve sleep.
The plant is also rich in potassium (494 mg/100 g), magnesium (68 mg/100 g), and calcium (65 mg/100 g), enough to provide the daily minimum for each of these minerals. Purslane is also an excellent source of vitamins A, C, B complex, and vitamin E.
When the shoots and the leaves are young, they are crispy and can be eaten raw in a salad, delivering a lemon-cucumber flavor. The taste is similar to that of watercress or spinach. You can also choose to lightly sautée them and serve as a side dish with dinner. Later in the season, when the plant is mature and tougher, it can be used in soups, curry, or a potage.
Purslane contains oxalic acid, which is a naturally-occurring substance that gives the weed its lemon-like taste. However, it also poses a risk to people with a history of oxalate urinary tract stones. The oxalic acid may crystallize as oxalate stones, worsening the condition. For everybody else, purslane is a fantastic food to add to your meals!
Editor’s Note: Always be 100% sure of what you are foraging before eating anything from the wild.