What had been growing in my sidewalk cracks was barely an inch tall, and very scraggly. Certainly not appetizing. When I planted some beans in a new garden plot this year, I mixed the clay soil with peat moss and greensand. The purslane seeds that germinated and grew up around the beans have developed into plants over a foot tall, healthy and lush, and they actually look like something I could or would eat!

Although I am not yet intrepid enough to try eating purslane (Portulaca oleracea), it remains in my garden because it benefits my still-raw soil. In researching for an article on Weeds, I found that purslane is a weed with roots that help break up hardpan, and bring nutrients from deep down in the soil back to the surface for use by other plants. Purslane also brings moisture up to the surface soil, and added to the compost pile as green manure, distributes additional nutrients to the compost.

Purslane, also known as Wild Portulaca, Little Hogweed, Pusley and Verdolaga, is a smooth textured succulent annual in colder zones. It grows about 6-12” tall, in full sun. Purslane is drought resistant and suitable for xeriscaping. They seed easily so deadheading is a must unless you want more volunteers next year.

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Purslane Photo by Floridian
Purslane Photo by Kennedyh Purslane Photo by Kennedyh

Seeds of Change sells seeds for a large-leaf purslane and a golden purslane (both are Portulaca oleracea). About the large-leaf purslane, they say, “… these erect, tangy and succulent stems are high in vitamin C. The leaves contain the highest concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids found in land plants. This is 5 times more than spinach and 10 times more than any lettuce or mustards. It is delicious steamed and is popular in stir-fries and Greek salads.”[1] For golden purslane, they add, “Succulent golden yellow leaves add zest and diversity to salads and stir-fries.” [2]

Golden Purslane Photo by Lilylover
Purslane Growing with Beans, Photo by Darius

Portulaca grandiflora, known as the annual Moss Rose, also has edible leaves, roots and seeds. The roots may be cooked; the leaves and seeds may be eaten raw or cooked, and the seeds ground into a powder for soups.[3]

Now that my purslane is growing tall and strong thanks to amendments, I find it an attractive as well as useful “weed”. I think I will deadhead it and leave it in my garden!

Purslane and Parsley Salad
Gourmet | August 2008, by Ian Knauer

You might run across purslane, with its glossy, plump leaves, at a farmers market—and you might even find it growing in your yard. Luckily, this incredibly nutritious and juicy green is a weed, which means it pops up wild nearly everywhere. Lots of chopped parsley and a simple vinaigrette flatter its herbal, lemony crunch.

Active time start to finish: 30 min; Makes 6 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes (preferably assorted heirloom varieties), halved or quartered if large
6 cups packed tender purslane sprigs and leaves (from a 1-pound bunch)
4 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves (from 2 large bunches)

Whisk together oil, lemon juice, shallot, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add tomatoes, purslane and parsley, gently tossing to coat.

Cooks' note: Herbs and greens can be washed and dried 1 day ahead, then chilled in sealed plastic bags lined with paper towels. Toss with tomatoes and vinaigrette just before serving.

[1] http://www.seedsofchange.com/garden_center/product_details.asp?item_no=S11062
[2] http://www.seedsofchange.com/garden_center/product_details.asp?item_no=S15913
[3] http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Portulaca+grandiflora

Photo Credits: Thanks to Floridian, Kennedyh, Lilylover and Xenomorph for their PlantFiles photos. The other photo is by the author.