Helpful Herbs: Purslane
Purslane is a helpful succulent native to the Middle East that is easy to grow and harvest. While it is sometimes considered an exotic weed, it is one of the most helpful and tasty weeds you will find.
While it grows wild in many areas, especially in hotter and more arid climates, Purslane can be added to your herb garden or grown in a container. Start them from seed or a cutting off an original plant, and provide them with full sun and warm soil. They can be an ideal house herb, as long as you have a sunny windowsill for your little succulent to grow on.
Purslane flowers with tiny yellow blossoms in mid-Summer, and their seed pods can be collected to grow more plants. Plants grown in colder climates will often come back in Spring, while ones kept indoors or in a warmer climate will continue growing throughout the Winter.
Harvested by cutting the tender tips, a strong Purslane plant can be used through the Summer months. It will keep fresh for a week or so, and can be dried and turned into a powder, but most commonly the tender leaves are used straight off the plant.
Purslane is such a simple, delicate plant and it fits smoothly into many recipes. It has a tangy, somewhat lemony flavor and it is part of many world cuisines including Greek and Indian cooking. It can be tossed raw in a salad, or cooked in a rice dish. The leaves can be used as a stuffing or crumble over cooked fished or pork, and you can add it to omelettes or put the leaves in a sandwich or pizza. Purslane also makes a great smoothie when mixed with fruits, and the dried leaves can be made into a tea.
Australian Aboriginals would use the seeds of Purslane to make seed cakes. The nutritional value of this little plant cannot be overstated, it is packed with healthy vitamins and nutrients. Purslane actually contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable. It is also full of Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as calcium, potassium, and iron. This means that a little bit of Purslane goes a long way towards your overall health, especially keeping your heart healthy, bones strong, and skin clear. Purslane has been studied as a cancer preventative and is also being looked as a possible treatment for autism and ADHD.
In traditional medicine, Purslane was used to staunch internal bleeding and to treat sores and boils. The tea, taken with honey, is said to ease coughs and sore throat, and it was said to help those who suffered from insomnia.
A powerful herb in ancient times, Purslane would be spread around the bed to ward off evil spirits. Pliny the Elder, in ancient Rome, claimed that an amulet of Purslane would expel all evil. Because the plant is so hardy and vigorous it found its way into many ancient cultures, growing in the Middle East and North Africa and spreading through Asia and into North America long before European immigration.
A pot of Purslane on the windowsill is an easy way to add to your herb garden with a plant that can be incorporated in to all kinds of cooking. A little bit here and there will do wonders for your health.