Purslane is one of those wonderful weeds that grow almost everywhere and can make a great vegetable or culinary herb, with a gentle sour-salt taste.
Purslane plants in flower
Central or Western Asia.
The origin of purslane is uncertain but is probably either the Himalayas or the Middle East. Today purslane can be found growing wild, cultivated and escaped from cultivation in Western Asia, Europe, Australia and across Northern and Central America from Canada to the Caribbean. Purslane is known to have existed in America before the arrival of Columbus and was documented in Europe by the late 16th century.
Leaves, stems and seeds.
Portulacaceae (purslane family).
The raw leaves and stems have a salty, fresh taste and have no bitterness.
The common name "purslane" derives from Middle English purcelan and Middle French porcelaine, from Late Latin porcillagin, an alteration of Latin portulaca. The genus name portulaca is derived from the Latin words portare "to carry" and lac "milk", referring to the milky sap.
Species name oleracea is a Latin word which means "pertaining to kitchen gardens", referring to its use as a vegetable. English common name "sun plant" refers to the plant's preference for bright and sunny locations.
Purslane is eaten throughout much of Europe and Asia as a vegetable (somewhat similar to spinach). Since it has a mucilaginous quality it is great for soups and stews.
The leaves and stems have a crispy texture and a salty taste that make them a good salad green and they are also used as a garnish for Mediterranean cold foods and Western Asian appetisers. The flower buds have a pronounced flavour and have been tried as a caper substitute.
The seeds are not put to general culinary use, but form part of the diet of some Native American peoples.
Purslane has been used as a medicinal plant for hundreds of years and is listed and used variously as a treatment for parasites, a blood-cleanser and to refresh the digestive system.