I recently learned about the existence of a weed/herb called Purslane which is reputed to have very significant health benefits.
Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid in particular) than any other leafy vegetable plant. Simopoulos states that Purslane has 0.01 mg/g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This is an extraordinary amount of EPA for land-based vegetable sources. EPA is an Omega-3 fatty acid found mostly in fish, some algae, and flax seeds. It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin A, vitamin C, and some vitamin B and carotenoids), as well as dietary minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron. Also present are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, the reddish betacyanins (visible in the coloration of the stems) and the yellow betaxanthins (noticeable in the flowers and in the slight yellowish cast of the leaves). Both of these pigment types are potent antioxidants and have been found to have antimutagenic properties in laboratory studies.
100 Grams of fresh purslane leaves (about 1 cup) contain 300 to 400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid. One cup of cooked leaves contains 90 mg of calcium, 561 mg of potassium, and more than 2,000 IUs of vitamin A.
Since I am a huge believer in better health through better eating, I was very excited to learn about this potential great new addition to my backyard garden. Based on the various articles I have read about the plant, it seems that wild purslane has far more health benefits than the cultivated variety so I set out to find some wild purslane. According to the foraging guides I consulted, cracks in the sidewalk are the most common place to find purslane, so I went outside and started searching the cracks between my driveway pavers and the cracks in the sidewalk between my house and the neighbors’.
This is how my new “crazy neighbor lady status” was bestowed upon me. As I was stooped over, carefully picking all of the weeds that I thought had potential to be my desired plant, the neighbor came out of his house and saw me. At first he thought that I was trying to beautify my driveway by hand picking the weeds from between the pavers, which in itself he thought was, in his words, “madness”. Being the super awesome and very helpful guy that he is, he immediately came over to save me from myself with a big jug of Roundup Weed Killer. Of course once I saw him all set to poison my driveway and any potential purslane that might be growing there I went running over to him yelling “No, no, I don’t want to kill them, I want to EAT them!!” In that instant I became the “crazy neighbor lady”.
I don’t think he holds my quirks against me though, I have lived next to this neighbor for almost 12 years, and he and his family are fantastic neighbors. Although I am the age of his grown children, we have common interests and get along great. We socialize in the front yard, we share the excesses from our gardens, we exchange gifts, we invite each other over to barbeques and generally have become friends so it was with a good deal of love that he told me that I had clearly gone mad to be eating the weeds from the cracks between my pavers and that he never realized how nutty I could be.
After explaining the whole purslane situation to my patient neighbor, I went inside with my bounty of weeds to try to identify them with some help from the internet. I am fairly sure that I picked at least three examples of the real thing, and I potted them up to try to encourage their growth with an eye towards transplanting them in the future into my herb garden. I am hoping that I can confirm their identity once the plants have grown a bit more, but frankly I don’t know anyone who is qualified to make the ID.
If anyone has any experience with purslane, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment below.