I found a new friend the other day! Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). It is growing in one of the hoop houses at UGArden as a weed. Once I figured out what it was and researched more, I was blown away by how amazing this herb is.
For starters, it grows prolifically in the summer and pops up in the most unexpected places as it can tolerate poor soil conditions and drought. It is an annual succulent that has an impressive nutritional profile!
It contains the most omega-3 of any other leafy plant. Just a half cup serving contains 1/2 of the recommended daily intake for ALA. It also contains Vit A, C, E, and a range of B vitamins. It is a powerful antioxidant and contains the minerals magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron.
When harvesting it is important to practice proper identification. Purslane likes to grow with another plant called spurge that is toxic. The purslane is the one with the thicker reddish stem and glossy paddle shaped leaves.
The spurge also has a colored stem but it is more woody and secrets a milky white fluid when the stem is broken. When a purslane stem is broken it secretes no milky fluid.
Also, when you are harvesting, keep in mind that time of day matters.
Taken from Wikipedia: “When stressed by low availability of water, purslane, which has evolved in hot and dry environments, switches to photosynthesis using Crassulacean acid metabolism (the CAM pathway): At night its leaves trap carbon dioxide, which is converted into malic acid (the souring principle of apples), and, in the day, the malic acid is converted into glucose. When harvested in the early morning, the leaves have ten times the malic acid content as when harvested in the late afternoon, and thus have a significantly more tangy taste.”
I have been harvesting mine in the early to late afternoon.
Okay, now that we have covered important points you are ready to start harvesting!
At the UGArden we first tried purslane by picking a few fresh leaves and adding them to our lunches.
As I researched and saw more uses for purslane, I decided to harvest a big bowl to bring home and experiment.
First I made a few delicious purslane salads.
Then I made an infused vinegar. With the high mineral content of purslane I wanted to try infusing it into apple cider vinegar. I will let this sit for a week or two and then strain.
I read that purslane has soothing and anti-inflammatory qualities (similar to plantain). I wanted to try it as an anti-inflammatory salve for bug bites. I chopped some more fresh leaves, covered it with olive oil and baked it in a 150 degree F oven for 2 hours. Then I made the oil into a salve.
I will use the salve for a little bit and then I will write a separate blog post showing you all the steps for making the salve and how it should be used.
Finally, at the end of the experimentation I had a bunch of stems leftover. They were crisp and tangy so I decided to try lacto-fermented purslane stems.
I put the stems in a jar and mixed up a salt solution (1 tsp salt to 4 cups of water). Then I poured in enough salt solution to cover the stems and screwed on my homemade airlock lid.
I will let it ferment for 1-2 weeks and then it will go in the fridge and be eaten as snack or chopped and added to other dishes.
I wanted to try more things but I ran out of purslane. I need to get more when I go back to work at the UGArden on Monday. I will post more as I continue to get to know this spectacular weed!
Now I want to give you a challenge. If you see this common weed growing around you (and has not been sprayed with pesticides), I encourage you to harvest some and try it! I would love to know what you think and how you are using it!