Purslane, a common weed and annual succulent is also known as Pigweed, Little Hogweed, Fatweed and Pusley. It is also considered an exotic weed and in some areas an invasive plant. Normally drought resistant it does grow in poor soils. Many people also use purslane as a culinary and medicinal plant and in the right conditions it may grow to 6-12 inches in height.
The stems, leaves and flower buds are all edible. It can be used in salads, stews and soups. What is so wonderful about this common weed is that it contains more *omega 3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant. Omega 3 fatty acids are important to your health. Studies have shown that they may help reduce risks for cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Research has also revealed that the omega 3 alpha linoleic acids found in seeds, like flaxseeds, walnuts, and whole grains may be as necessary to one’s health as the omega 3’s found in fish oils to prevent heart attacks.
The main difference between the Omega-3’s found in fish oils and those found in plants, is that in fish oils the omega 3’s are long chain fatty acids. In plants, including seeds, the omega 3’s are comprised of shorter chains. When consumed the shorter chain omega 3’s found in leafy greens like purslane, are converted to long chain fatty acids in the human body. Why is this important? Humans must get omega 3’s from plants as well as fish because the body needs large amounts of Vitamin E to prevent omega 3’s from becoming rancid. Fish oils, however, are very low in Vitamin E, while plant based omega 3 sources are loaded with vitamin E. So simply put the body can store more short chain omega 3’s from plants.
**Purslane also contains important vitamins, including A, C and some vitamin B and carotenoids and minerals including magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. A handful of fresh purslane leaves will provide you with about 300 – 400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid. Cooking the same amount of purslane leaves will yield about 90 mg of calcium, about 561 mg of potassium and more than 2,000 IUs of vitamin A. ***Used also in traditional Chinese medicine for those with cold and weak digestion. Its leaves are also used to treat insect bites, and provide relief from bee stings.
You can grow purslane by seed, but the best luck at growing the domesticated varieties will be in full sun, in neutral soil that has a pH of about 7.0 and that is well-draining. You can also grow purslane in containers by planting the seeds in rich potting mix and keeping it watered until the seeds germinate. Do not over water because purslane will not grow well in damp, cold conditions.
Purslane can be another source of nourishment for your body and without too much work on your part it can be incorporated into a daily salad or stew providing you with rich Omega 3’s that will help to protect your heart! Enjoy!
*David Beaulieu. “Edible Landscaping With Purslane”
**Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol 11, Issue 4 374-382, Copyright © 1992
***Bensky, Dan, et al. Chinese Herbal Medicine, Materia Medica. China: Eastland Press Inc., 2004
Some Sources for seeds:
You can order purslane seeds on line from amazon.com and territorialseed.com or locally you can inquire at nurseries and garden stores in your area.