If you keep houseplants, it looks like a poor man's, tiny jade plant with a horizontal habit. Like jade plant, it's a succulent with fleshy, oval leaves. Common purslane also boasts reddish stems that make it easy to identify, even when it's a bitty seedling. If you're watching for it in late winter or early, early spring, it looks perky when everything else in the garden but the crocus plants are still hunkered down and shivering (metaphorically speaking). That little bit of green can be more warming that a mug of hot chocolate on a cold, gloomy day.
Purslane isn't native to the U.S., but it has gone native here. It can grow in almost any soil, and even small, discarded pieces can reroot easily. Purslane sets seed quickly and reproduces very effectively (note the VERY). Along with dandelion, purslane could be the poster child for invasive, peskiness in locations where it isn't assiduously monitored and contained. This ought to put it into perspective: One purslane specimen can produce up to 50,000 seeds.
Botanists can trace the origins of purslane to India -- or possibly Africa. Common purslane is actually a popular vegetable in many parts of the world. It's used in stir fry, salads and can be added to veggie medleys the way you would add leafy greens like spinach. Folks think it tastes a bit like spinach, or at least a cross between spinach and watercress. You can find plenty of recipes that add a handful of purslane to traditional potato salad. It's also a welcome ingredient in Greek salad. It can be served raw, steamed, stir fried or pickled. What parts do people eat? That would usually be the tender leaves and stems.
|Purslane salad |
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/melystu/4768772580/">mystuart (busy!!)</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photo pin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">cc</a>
- Purslane has one of the highest levels of omega 3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid or ALA) of any plant tested so far.
- It contains high concentrations of vitamins C and E.
- It's a good source of potassium and magnesium.
- It contains high levels of the heart healthy antioxidant beta-carotene.
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/juliepics/2680868283/">feministjulie</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photo pin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>