Purslane, an Opera Diva, and Flying Humans

Purslane.  Yes, it is mainly maligned as a weed, but have you tried it yet?  Starting early in June, our veganic garden produces bushels full of this deep, green superfood.   I do not plant it, and many gardeners groan when they see it, but I am delighted.  It is nutritious, delicious, it self-seeds, and it grows like a weed.  (This is good.)

When I first discovered this prize in my plot, I had no idea what it was.  The tiny sprouts looked a bit like the flowering portulaca that my mom always planted in her rock gardens, those vibrant tropical-colored blooms, so I let it grow.  It soon became clear that it was something else, but what?  The leaves were plump and juicy, succulent, enticing.  Some research revealed that it was indeed portulaca, though not the kind I expected, and it was edible, so I ate it.

I started with just a few leaves sprinkled in a salad.  Then a few sprigs of leaves and smaller stems, rinsed and drizzled with Dijon dressing.  Crisp, tangy, yum.  Still, I could not keep up with the massive amount of purslane growing in our garden.

Purslane power

Fast-forward two years, to last summer.  Emma was 6 years old, a lovely little girl who could be a royal opera diva about eating anything green (yuck-o-rama), so when I came home from the garden one day with an armload of purslane, I knew it would set off a scene from Carmen, or at least a long and drawn out “maaaah-om,” but I had a plan.

I removed the roots, rinsed off the dirt, and filled our blender with banana, lime juice, apple cider, maple syrup, and several cups of purslane, smaller stems and leaves.  Eureka!  She guzzled this green smoothie down and asked for more.  When I told her we could make purslane popsicles, she was hopping-up-and-down happy.  She seemed to appreciate this breakthrough as much as I did.  Finally, mom knew how to prepare greens.

Now seven, Emma takes green smoothie to school and summer camp in her snack thermos, or she enjoys a green “Groovy pop” after school.  We play with the recipe, but this is one of our favorites.

Purslane smoothie and Groovy pops

  • 1.5 cups frozen pureed purslane with lemon or lime juice (see tips below)
  • 1 or 2 bananas
  • 1 cup organic applesauce (no sugar)
  • ¼ cup 100% maple syrup
  • 1 shamrock (wood sorrel, lemon grass), 1 white clover flower, or other garnish

Blend until smooth.  Pour.  Garnish with a shamrock or a clover flower (both are edible), or whatever you like.  Enjoy.  Pour the leftover smoothie into Groovy pop molds (BPA-free, Tovolo) and freeze for several hours.

Purslane nutrition

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a nutrient-dense superfood, loaded with vitamins A, C, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, and many other nutrients.  Purslane is mucilaginous, so it sooths the stomach and aids digestion, and it is diuretic.  It also creates a notable energy boost.  Add this powerful plant to your diet and see for yourself.  Purslane makes me feel like flying.

Purslane tips

~Before you eat it, make sure you have purslane and not its poisonous look-a-like, spurge. Break the stem.  If the juice inside is sappy milky white, it is not purslane.  (The white sap of spurge is toxic.  Do not touch it.)

~Purslane leaves are plump and shiny, rounded at the end, not pointed, and they whorl and cluster around tiny yellow flower buds at the end of each stem.  Stems are round, smooth, green or reddish in color, with smaller stems branching out and upward from larger stems that trail close to the ground.  The seeds, tiny, round, and black, are contained in round pointed seedpods.

~Pick purslane in the early morning, or after a rain, when the leaves are plump and the stems are bendy rather than woody.

~Purslane does not keep well in the refrigerator, so eat it soon after picking, or freeze it.

~To freeze it, puree purslane with some lime or lemon juice, to keep it from oxidizing and turning brown.  Use about ½ cup of juice per 5- or 7-cup blender full of purslane.  If needed, add up to 1 cup of spring water to help it break down.  Pour the puree into 2-cup plastic containers (not quite filled, to leave room for expansion).  Squeeze out any air by pressing down on the lid, and freeze.

~Purslane season is right around the corner here in the Northeast USA.  Watch for it!

© Copyright 2011, Laura J. Rongé, Ciel Bleu Media, healthiveg.com.  All rights reserved.

Disclaimer—The articles here are not intended as medical, nutritional, or other professional advice.  The ideas presented are my own, unless otherwise noted, and are for informational purposes only.  Please use this information with discretion.

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28 Responses to Purslane, an Opera Diva, and Flying Humans

  1. Janet says:

    These photos are gorgeous and I love the image of Emma doing the diva act. (Other people’s little diva acts are so much more enjoyable than our own sometimes!) I did enjoy the purslane smoothies very much. Keep up the good work and again, Happy Birthday! Hope it is a great year!

  2. Gretchen says:

    I was right with you there until I read the part about it’s evil toxic cousin. I’m thinking about purslane like mushrooms now. Really yummy, perhaps, but too risky? Maybe not if someone else picks it and eats if first! 😉 Another great article…keep up the great work! I tweeted this one.

    • Laura says:

      Thanks, Gretchen. Spurge and purslane are actually pretty easy to tell apart. Purslane leaves are more rounded, and purslane does not have any white sap ever. But as with all wild edibles, don’t try it unless you are absolutely sure.

  3. Stacie Thornhill says:

    I have never heard of this – I will have to see if it grows down south (way down South), where I live. It sounds delicious!

  4. I loved getting purslane at the farmer’s market last summer! Now that I’m juicing in a big way I think I’ll enjoy it even more this year!

    • Laura says:

      Purslane should be great food for those marathons and triathlons that you do! Thanks for your comment, JL.

  5. hossain farhad says:

    Hi Laura

    Good morning.
    Thank you very much indeed for writing up this article on Purslane. To tell you frankly, I am not surprised to know the food value and nutrition content of this herbal vegetable (note that i said “herbal vegetable”) as here in Indian subcontinent, this is well known as an edible vegetable though mainly in the rural areas. But what I am amazed at is, seeing you having an intense interest in it. It’s great!! At the city vegetable market Purslane is not available always .. but in forthcoming rainy season it will be abundantly grown. Even here in Bangladesh, the farmers don’t grow it like other vegetables as it grows spontaneously ( yeah .. just like a weed .. so very often neglected as a prospective money generating product).
    If you allow me I might add up a few more Aiyurvedic attributes it has (..I will write you next time).
    Once again, thank you very much and I was really surprised..
    Take care ..
    Bye bye

    • Laura says:

      Thank you, Hossain! I would love to hear about the Ayurvedic attributes of purslane. Since writing this article, I have heard from some of my local Indian friends, who ate this while growing up in India. I’ve promised them some purslane from my garden this year, and they are very happy. I’ve also heard that Gandhi loved this herb, though I haven’t verified this. Enjoy it when your rainy season comes!

  6. hossain farhad says:

    Hi Laura,

    Regards. Here are some excerpts from various sources (where you can find detailed information) regarding the medicinal values and Ayurvedic attributes of Purslane.

    Purslane is considered helpful medicinally in treating and/or preventing a wide range of conditions, including:
    scurvy,
    cataracts,
    heart disease,
    asthma,
    cardia arrhythmia,
    depression, gingivitis,
    multiple sclerosis,
    and psoriasis,
    as well as boosting the immune system.

    Rich in vitamins A, C, and E, as well as the minerals calcium and magnesium, and also omega-e oils, purslane offers both superb nutrition and reinforce the body’s own insulin supply.

    Purslane is the best food source of all of these nutrients.

    Purslane also helps to prevent arrhythmia.

    Purslane has a folk reputation in China for treating herpes, so it’s worth a try.

    Purslane is used in various parts of the world to treat:
    burns,
    headaches,
    stomach,
    intestinal
    and liver ailments,
    cough,
    shortness of breath
    and arthritis.

    Purslane has also been used as a purgative, cardiac tonic, emollient, muscle relaxant, and in anti-inflammatory and diuretic treatments.

    Purslane appears among a list of herbs considered to help benefit conditions such as osteoporosis and psoriasis.

    But individuals with a history of kidney stones should use purslane with caution.

    A few sources for detailed Information:
    http://www.herballegacy.com
    http://www.drugs.com
    http://www.healthguidance.org

    (Well Laura, I don’t know if these information are enough to help your readers or not.)

    Hope to get a response from ya soon ..
    Take care ..
    Bye

    • Laura says:

      Thanks again, Hossain. I did check these sites and by searching “purslane” was able to find great info. Thanks for all this research! I am sure people will find it helpful as I did. Best wishes, Laura

  7. Jacki Glew says:

    I came across purslane at my local farmers market. I had no idea what to do with it but they said just to try it in salad and it was wonderful! Now I am excited for it to be available again so I can try a purslane smoothie!

    • Laura says:

      Hi Jacki, and thanks for your comment. It is great that purslane seems to be popping up in many farmers’ markets. It really is tasty and so healthy, too. And keep up the great work at the Block Center. I love what you do there! <3 Laura

  8. Stephanie says:

    I love that your daughter loves green smoothies! I LOVE the idea of green smoothie popsicles! I’ve never thought of doing that!

    • Laura says:

      Smile. Thanks, Stephanie! I would not have thought of it either, but necessity is the mother of invention, and being the mom of a 7-year-old requires quite a bit of that! Your website is wonderful. <3 Laura

  9. Santu says:

    Thank you for sharing information about purslane. When I was in India, we used to eat delicacies made using purslane. It is one of my favorites. It has been years since I ate Dal (lintels) made using Purslane. Yummy!!!! Now I wait for Spring! Laura, you are my best friend, share not only information but also purslane.

    • Laura says:

      Santu, You are a sweetheart, and I look forward to sharing purslane with you and trying your recipe as well! <3 Laura

  10. Ha! We only found out recently that purslane is edible, it grows wild in our vegetable garden.

    Nice blog!

    Evelyn

  11. Sangeeta says:

    This is a lot of purslane in you garden. My garden gets a self seeding smaller variety and that is as good as this one. Liked the smoothy idea and will be doing it soon. I had a pizza made with a purslane and tomato spread today, but i never felt like flying after eating purslane 🙂

    • Laura says:

      🙂 Hi Sangeeta. I like the idea of adding purslane as a pizza topper. I will try this. And let me know how you like the smoothie. It is a large dose, and you may change your mind about flying. Wink. <3 Laura

  12. Tremendous site! I am loving it!! Will come back… Thanks. Trinidad Palombit

  13. bakingbarb says:

    I love purslane ~ it is quite pretty to see growing and a plus is it grows like a weed!
    Amazing that it tastes great and is so healthy for us. It grew as a weed in MI but where I live now I’ve not seen it. I think it’s time to find myself some plants.

    • Laura says:

      Hi Barb! Yes, I felt very lucky to find it, and I hope you find it, too. I love your garden pictures! <3 Laura

  14. Julie says:

    We have alot of purslane in our garden which I’ve recently steamed a few times. I love the taste but we both find it very gas producing. Has anyone else experienced that?
    My husband is taking off cuttings from the plants assuming it will have regrowth.

    • Laura says:

      Hi Julie! I haven’t had this problem. I would look first at the soil. I recommend against using manure and other animal products as fertilizer. (Check the ingredient list on fertilizers and you may be surprised at what you find). I hope you can solve the problem. Purslane is an amazing source of nutrition. And yes, it will grow back after cutting. In fact, once it takes hold, it self-seeds several times during one season, so even if you pull it out by the roots, it is likely to keep appearing given good growing conditions.

  15. Collette says:

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