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PURSLANE (Portulaca oleracea, Portulaca sativa)

 

Also known as: cat's tongue, duckweed, fatweed, pigweed, pursley, pussley, verdolagas, wild portulaca

 

Purslane

Purslane is the most frequently reported “weed” species in the world. It can grow anywhere that has at least a two-month growing season. It is a succulent annual trailing plant that grows in many countries because it thrives in poor soil. This nutritious weed has a distinctive thick, reddish stem and succulent, green spoon-like shaped leaves similar to the jade houseplant.  The stem can grow up to 30 cm (12") long and radiates from the centre of the plant. Purslane is often found thriving in the cracks of pavements and driveways and often appears in bare spots in a lawn, container gardens, flowerbeds, fields, waste ground and along the roadside.

About mid-July, purslane develops tiny, yellow flowers about a quarter of an inch across that usually open only in full sunlight. After a week or so, the yellow flowers give way to small, dark, pointed seed capsules that, when mature, break open and release an abundance of tiny, black seeds, each about the size of a grain of sand. Under ideal conditions, a single purslane plant can produce up to 200,000 seeds and these can have a viable 30-year shelf life. The leaves, stems and flower buds are all edible.

NOTE: A similar plant named "hairy-stemmed spurge" has hairy stems and milky sap and is poisonous and should not be mistaken for purslane that has no hairs on its stems and clear sap.

Since the time of Hippocrates, purslane has been widely used in Europe for its medicinal properties and in ancient Egypt it was used to treat heart disease.

The health benefits of purslane

  • Acts as a mild diuretic and so prevents water retention.

  • Aids with weight loss.

  • Benefits the hair and nails.

  • Improves digestion, heals intestinal and colon issues.

  • Improves the efficiency of the immune system.

  • Prevents development disorders in children such as attention deficit disorder, autism and hyperactivity.

  • Protects the bones..

  • Reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels,

  • Improves circulation and prevents blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.

  • Reduces inflammation and pain in joints.

 

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Health disorders purslane can help to treat and protect against

Properties of purslane

  • Anthelmintic (expels parasites and worms)

  • Antibacterial (fights bacterial infections)

  • Antiscorbutic (prevents scurvy, vitamin C deficiency)

  • Cathartic (activates bowel evacuation)

  • Depurative (detoxifying and purifying)

  • Diuretic (causes increased urination and hence reduces water retention)

  • Febrifuge (reduces fever)

Nutrients in purslane per 100 grams

Other nutrients in purslane

Purslane is a very rich source of co-enzyme Q10, which is found in every living cell and supplies them with energy. Co-enzyme Q10 is often lacking in the elderly and those that take medications for diabetes and to lower cholesterol.

Purslane contains 10 to 20 times more melatonin than any other fruit or vegetable they have tested. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for regulating the body's clock and sleep cycle.

Purslane also contains two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, the red beta-cyanins and the yellow beta-xanthins. Both pigment types are potent anti-oxidants and have been found to have anti-mutagenic properties in laboratory studies.

Purslane is one of the highest plant sources of vitamin A and the B complex of vitamins which help to regulate the nervous system and carbohydrate metabolism.

The leaves are a very rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which prevents heart attacks and strengthens the immune system. Purslane tops the list of plants high in beta-carotene, vitamin E and an essential omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It provides six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta-carotene than carrots. Purslane leaves have more omega-3 fatty acids than in some of the fish oils and more than any other plant source with 8.5 mg for every gram of weight. 100 grams of fresh purslane leaves provide about 400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid.

Purslane is a good choice for vegetarians who often lack omega-3 fatty acids due to the lack of fish in their diet. Other good plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids are:

NOTE: Purslane contains oxalic acid, a naturally-occurring substance found in some vegetables, which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. 100 g fresh leaves contain 1.31 g of oxalic acid, more than in spinach (0.97 g/100 g) and cassava (1.26 g/100 g). Therefore, people with known oxalate urinary tract stones are advised to avoid eating purslane and certain vegetables belonging to Amaranthaceae and Brassica family. Adequate intake of water is also advised to maintain normal urine output.

To make a purslane medicinal tincture

  • Sterilise a jar and its lid, by submerging them in boiling water for 5 minutes and set aside.

  • Finely chop enough purslane to fill the jar to about 3/4 full.

  • Add vodka to the above jar, until the liquid covers the herb completely.

  • Shake gently to release trapped air bubbles and add more vodka if necessary.

  • Seal the jar with the lid and shake vigorously then place in a cool, dark place.

  • Shake the jar everyday for about a month, if possible two months. The storage and shaking process can help to release the medicinal compounds and essential oils to the alcohol.

  • When the storage period ends (one or two months), sterilise another jar (and its lid) and wash hands well.

  • Strain the vodka and purslane liquid into the newly sterilised jar using cheesecloth or muslin.

  • Squeeze as much as liquid as possible and seal the jar with the lid.

NOTE: Before using the tincture, shake the jar vigorously, to make sure the beneficial compounds and nutrients are distributed evenly.

Purslane recipes

Purslane is a very common but highly nutritious weed with many powerful health benefits when consumed regularly. It can be eaten as a cooked vegetable and is great to use in salads, soups, stews or any dish you wish to sprinkle it over. It is crunchy and has a slight lemon taste similar to watercress or spinach. Young, raw leaves and stems are tender and are good in salads and sandwiches. They can also be lightly steamed or stir-fried. Its high level of pectin (known to lower cholesterol) can thicken soups and stews.

Purslane Pesto

Because it’s so juicy, purslane creates a low-fat pesto without too much oil.

Ingredients

  • Bunch of purslane leaves and stems

  • Handful of basil leaves

  • 2 crushed garlic cloves

  • Small handful of crushed pine nuts

  • Olive oil

Method

  • Place basil and purslane (including upper stems) into a blender or food processor.

  • Add a small amount of olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and enough hot water to get a good consistency.

  • Blend well then refrigerate until use.

Pickled purslane

Ingredients

  • 1litre of purslane stems and leaves

  • 3 x garlic cloves, sliced

  • 1litre apple cider vinegar (or old pickle, jalapeno juice, etc.)

  • 10 x peppercorns

Method

  • Clean the purslane stems and leaves by rinsing with fresh water.

  • Cut into small pieces and place in clean jars with lids.

  • Add the spices and pour the vinegar over the purslane.

  • Keep this in the refrigerator and wait at least two weeks before using.

  • Serve as a side dish with omelettes and sandwiches.

NOTE: Brine pickling purslane using just salt and water is an extra healthy way to consume it as it adds extra beneficial bacteria to the intestines. See the Brine Pickling page for recipes.

Purslane salad dressing

Ingredients

  • Strained, thick yogurt

  • 1 handful of purslane, coarsely chopped

  • 1 handful of romaine lettuce, chopped in chunks

  • 2 mashed or minced garlic cloves

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons of capers

  • Himalayan pink salt crystals or unrefined sea salt

  • Freshly ground peppercorns

Method

Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl and refrigerate for a half hour to an hour before serving.

Sweet potato and purslane salad

Ingredients

  • 2 x medium sized scrubbed sweet potatoes sliced into chunks, about ½ inch thick (unpeeled)

  • Himalayan pink salt or unrefined sea salt to taste

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • Juice of one lemon

  • A handful of purslane, thoroughly washed, torn or chopped

  • I red onion, thinly sliced (alternatively, use a few chopped scallions)

  • Half a cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced, into half moon shapes (optional)

  • 1 large tomato, roughly chopped (optional)

  • Handful of fresh herbs such as basil, mint, parsley, chervil (optional)

Method

  • Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and add salt and sweet potatoes.

  • Cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes.

  • Drain thoroughly and then pour into a serving bowl, spreading even to cover bottom surface.

  • Combine olive oil and lemon juice in a small dish, whisking until well emulsified, then pour over potatoes.

  • In a layered fashion, add purslane, onion, plus any additional ingredients.

  • With a wooden spoon, stir to combine, and taste for salt.

  • Makes enough for two or three as a side dish.

Verdolago con huevos (Purslane Omelette)

Ingredients

  • A large handful of purslane, with stems, diced   

  • 6 eggs beaten

  • 1 onion diced    

  • Butter

  • A handful of nasturtium leaves and stems, diced

  • 2 tomatoes sliced

  • A handful of basil leaves

Method

  • Carefully clean and rinse the purslane. The entire above-ground plant can be used as long as it is still tender.

  • Add the diced onion and purslane to a heated and buttered cast-iron skillet.

  • Cook for about five minutes.

  • Add the beaten eggs and cook omelette-style.

  • Serve with tomato slices and basil leaves.

  • Serves three.

"Nature cures not the physician..." Hippocrates 460 BC

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