Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)



Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is an annual succulent herb in the family Portulacaceae, with about 40 varieties. It is also known as summer Purslane, Common Purslane, Pigweed, Litle Hogweed, Verdolaga, and Pusley. It is considered a weed in the United States.

Purslane, 40 cm tall, has reddish, smooth, mostly prostrate, round stems that trail along the ground like a small vine . Young plants have green stems which take on a red tint with maturity. The juicy leaves are small, oblong, alternate and clustered at stem joints and ends. Purslane has a taproot with fibrous secondary roots and can tolerate drought, and poor, compacted soil. The flowers are yellow, 6 mm wide, and open singly at the center of the leaf cluster for only a few hours on sunny mornings. The tiny, round, black seeds are contained in tuny pods which open when the seeds are ready.

Purslane can be eaten as a leaf vegetable. The stems, leaves and flower buds are all edible. The taste is slightly sour and salty, and is eaten in much of Europe, in the Middle East, Asia, and Mexico. Purslane can be eaten fresh and add to salads, cooked like spinach or stir fried, sauteed as a side-dish, or make into soups or stews.

Puslane has a high content of Omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid), vitamins A, C, B and carotenoids, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron. Two types of betalain alkaloids pigments are present, the reddish betacyanins which give the stems their reddish color, and the yellow betaxanthins (present in the yellow flowers and in the slight yellowish cast of the leaves). These two pigment alkaloids are potent antioxidants and have been found to have antimutagenic properties.

Purslane is known as Ma Chi Xian in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and is used to treat infection or bleeding of the genito-urinary tract and dysentery. Fresh plant may also be applied topically to relieve insect bites, and eating purslane can reduce oral lichen planus, an inflammatory auto-immune disease that affects oral mucosa.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
Author: Forest & Kim Starr (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

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