Common Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) is considered a noxious weed to most gardeners and for many years it was for me too. But after doing some research I quickly realized that it was more than just a purslane weed.
I remember as a kid having to go to the family garden with bucket in hand to go weed the garden. The garden was covered in portulaca AKA Common Purslane which also goes by the names "garden purslane, beldroega, children’s spinach, jump up and kiss me, little hogweed, money plant, pot purslane, ma chi xian" according to University of Texas at El Paso Herbal facts article on Purslane. Although it looked quite nice with its carpet of red green, it meant that we had hours of purslane weed pulling to do. Pull it out, put it is a bucket and repeat, over and over till the bucket was filled and then empty into the garbage. It seemed like a never ending task. A task that only stopped when the garden plants got bigger or the snow flew. But that was many years ago.
Over the years I have had many gardens and had not experienced that level of purslane weed in a garden. But then I moved to my homestead, cleared the yard site, brought in some top soil and established a garden and lawn. The first year, the newly seeded lawn was red with purslane weed and the garden was not any better. I had a flash back to the hours of weeding as a child and cringed.
So I dug out a bucket and started pulling weeds out of my garden and putting the purslane weed into the bucket and dumping it in an area I had dedicated for what I considered, at the time, to be non compostable material. I talked to my neighbor and found out they had purslane weed really bad as well and that round up was not effective in killing it. They had to resort to stronger commercial chemicals to kill the purslane weed. As I explore in Achieving a Permaculture Design Principle with the Back to Eden Gardening method I am not crazy about using commercial herbicides so I decided that I had been sentenced to a life of pulling weeds and putting them in a bucket.
Then something happened in the lawn that made me sit back and think about what was going on. The purslane weed (Portulace Oleracea) disappeared from the lawn. I then thought back to weeding the garden as a child and realized that the same thing was happening here, the purslane weed can't handle being shaded and does not grow well with competition.
I then started doing some research into the control of Portulaca Oleracea and learned that the seeds formed after purslane flowers can remain viable for over 40 years and there are a lot of them. Maybe they did not come in on the top soil, but rather, were here all along. As Identified in a report Common Purslane put out by the University of California "A single plant may produce 240,000 seeds, which may germinate even after 5 to 40 years." And to add to the problem, I ran across an article by WeedInfo.ca that confirmed what I had been told and that was that " The very fleshy nature of Purslane enables it to continue flowering and ripening seeds for several days after being hoed or uprooted. Though rarely producing roots from the stem, if even a small portion of the root of an uprooted plant touches the soil, it can grow a new root system and become re-established." I quickly realized I was fighting a loosing battle!
What is Common Purslane AKA Portulaca?
Common Purslane is a succulent that is well suited to a classification as a pioneer species. As described in WeedInfo the stems of Common Purslane are "very fleshy or watery, smooth, reddish-green to purplish-red, repeatedly branched and often forming circular mats 30-60cm in diameter or larger.". Common Purslane "Cotyledons (seed leaves) of emerging seedlings 2-5mm long, and half or less wide, thick, fleshy and reddish or reddish-green on a bright red stalk; leaves mostly alternate (1 per node) except the first few apparently opposite (2 per node), and those near the tips of branches crowded together; all leaves flat but thick and fleshy, deep green to reddish-green, broadest near the rounded or squared tip and narrowed towards the base, completely hairless."
It is shallow rooted and soon develops branching after emergence.
If left unchecked, it will soon develop into a large plant.
And it will contain many yellow flowers and seed pods that will help it to spread.
Common Purslane look alike
Although fairly distinctive in its appearance, Common Purslane AKA Portulaca (Portulaca Oleracea) can be confused with Prostrate Spurge (Euphorbia maculata). As described by Purdue University in their article Common Purslane, "Prostrate spurge is a look-a-like weed to purslane. Prostrate spurge will have smaller leaves and stems and a more strictly opposite leaf arrangement that purslane. Additionally, spurge, like milkweed, will exude a white sap when the stem is severed." Prostrate Spurge is on the left and Common Purslane is on the right.
Common Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) although sometimes grown from seed in the home garden should not be confused with the low growing garden flower Portulaca AKA Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora) and its many garden varieties.
Control of Common Purslane
Although a preemergent herbicide could be used as a control method as identified by the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program , I was not prepared to use any sort of commercial chemical control for reasons as I explored in Achieving a Permaculture Design Principle with the Back to Eden Gardening method, Additionally, my neighbor had already proved that glyphosate was not at all effective.
Thinking about it some more and after witnessing how the purslane weed disappeared when the young grass became established, I decided to look at "a way of working with nature rather than against it.". A Permaculture Design Principle that "looks at the way nature is made, exists, and functions and applies those systems to our own spaces and environments" as described by Homesteading Family in a class I took, Permaculture For Your Homestead: A Crash Course. I had always tried to mimic nature where I could but this message was driven home with this course and it's applicability to dealing with Common Purslane was evident.
As I mentioned earlier, being a pioneer species the role of Common Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) is to cover the soil, which is also one of the principles of the Permaculture Design Principles. So if I can cover the soil with a mulch, I could control the germination and growth.
I could also plant my rows closer together to shade out the purslane weed.
Or I could cover the ground with woven weed fabric as I explored in Woven Landscape Fabric - A Homemade Woven Weed Fabric DIY project.
And although a No-till Gardening method would definitely help by not bringing up new purslane seeds to the surface to germinate, I decided to employ a tight row spacing in my garden along with shallow hoeing. However, my main mind shift came when I did some more research and I then and there decided that "If I can't beat it, eat it."
Health Benefits of Purslane Weed
After doing the research into the health benefits and medicinal uses of Common Purslane, I have made it one of my go to seasonal weeds to consume and use. According to Healthline.com a 100 gram (3.5 oz) portion of Common Purslane contains:
- Vitamin A (from beta-carotene): 26% of the Daily value
- Vitamin C: 35% of the Daily value
- Magnesium: 17% of the Daily value
- Manganese: 15% of the Daily value
- Potassium: 14% of the Daily value
- Iron: 11% of the Daily value
- Calcium: 7% of the Recommended Daily Intake
- It also contains small amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, folate, copper and phosphorus.
"You get all of these nutrients with only 16 calories! This makes it one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, calorie for calorie."
But also, according to the article Health Benefits of Purslane by WebMD, in addition to it's ability to lower risk of cancer due to it's high levels of beta-carotene, Purslane is also a great source of two minerals that are important to bone health: calcium and magnesium. But the most interesting fact about Common Purslane is that "It is one of the few vegetables that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important to support healthy arteries and can help prevent strokes, heart attacks, and other forms of heart disease. In fact, purslane has the highest-recorded levels of omega-3 fatty acids of any land-based plant.". The National Library of Medicine states in their article Common purslane: a source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants that "One hundred grams of fresh purslane leaves (one serving) contain about 300-400 mg of 18:3w3; 12.2 mg of alpha-tocopherol; 26.6 mg of ascorbic acid; 1.9 mg of beta-carotene; and 14.8 mg of glutathione. We confirm that purslane is a nutritious food rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.". Simply put, this translates to 113 mg/oz, in comparison to wild caught salmon which contains 259.7 mg/oz and farmed salmon that contains 750.7 mg/oz. Making Common Purslane an attainable definite source of Omega 3 and other benefits.
Although purslane weed may be considered one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, it is not without its down falls. According to Healthline.com, Common Purslane contains oxalates which have been linked to the formation of kidney stones and are known to "have antinutrient properties, meaning that they may interfere with the absorption of minerals like calcium and magnesium." But go on to advise that if this is of concern "try adding it to yogurt, which has been shown to significantly reduce the amount of oxalates."
Medicinal benefits of Common Purslane
According to Organicauthority.com article Don't Pull the Purslane! 11 Uses for the Edible Weed, and as supported by NaturalMedicinalherbs.net, Common Purslane medicinal benefits include:
- Caffeine Antidote: Since purslane is full of magnesium and melatonin, it's a great antidote if you've consumed too much caffeine. Purslane will reduce caffeine's side effects like the jitters and sleeplessness.
- Immune Booster: Since it's high in calcium, magnesium and numerous other vitamins and minerals, purslane can bolster your immune system.
- Insulin Booster: Purslane is believed to support the body's own insulin supply. Purslane extract can stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels, according to numerous studies cited by the National Institutes of Health.
- Psoriasis Treatment: Foods high in omega-3s, like purslane, prevent leukotriene production. For psoriasis sufferers, this can prevent the inflammation that leads to the itchy, scaly, red skin associated with the condition.
- Heart Health: Low magnesium levels contribute to cardiac arrhythmia risk. Consuming 250 mg of magnesium a day can reduce arrhythmia risk and lower your blood pressure. One cup of purslane contains about 30 mg of magnesium.
- Headache Prevention: Some chronic tension headache and migraine sufferers are impacted by magnesium deficiency. Purslane can help you get the 600 mg of magnesium a day needed to regulate your magnesium levels and reduce headache risk.
Cooking with Common Purslane
With all the goodness that Common Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) contains, it only stands to reason that I would include the purslane weed in my diet. I will say though that being my garden contains sand, multiple thorough washing of the purslane weed prior to cooking with it is required.
After thoroughly washed, I have use it in my salads, made stir fry's with it and used it in omelets. My limited culinary creative use of the purslane weed has not even come close to the culinary uses according to the article Purslane Recipes: 45 Things To Do With Fresh Purslane. Nor has it even scraped the surface of use as identified in 20 Purslane Recipes You Never Knew You Needed. But I think I may have to try the Purslane Pesto and Pickled Purslane identified in Organicauthority.com. and the Steamed Purslane prepared by Mexico in my Kitchen.
But regardless of which way I should decide to prepare it, I can be rest assured that I am getting some good nutrition with every bite.
I always smiled when I saw Common Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) seeds for sale in the seed catalogs. And although I can't see myself purposefully planting it and I have no intentions of letting the purslane weed run rampant through the garden, I will do my best to keep it down to a dull roar and tend to it like any of the other plants in the garden. But one thing is for certain, I no longer look on Common Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) as a weed but rather as a tremendous asset to my health and medicinal herbal journey.
I hope you enjoyed this exploration into this popular garden weed. If you did and If you enjoy this content, please consider joining the My Boreal Homestead Life community. By supplying your email address at the bottom of the page and hitting "sign up" or by clicking Join, you will ensure you get an email notification when I post new blogs to the My Boreal Homestead Life site.
Thank you for joining me on the front porch of My Boreal Homestead Life as we explore this Homegrown, Homestead life, In a modern world.
- Balcony Garden Web - Edible Weed Purslane Benefits | How To Grow Purslane In Containers
- Gardening Know How - Fresh Purslane Herb – What Is Purslane And Care Of Purslane Plant
- American Botanical Council - Food as Medicine - Purslane (Portulaca oleracea, Portulacaceae)
- Homesteading Family - Back to Eden Gardening with Paul Gautschi