Fresh Purslane Herb – What Is Purslane And Care Of Purslane Plant
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By: Heather Rhoades
Purslane herb is often considered to be a weed in many gardens, but if you get to know this fast-growing, succulent plant, you’ll discover that it is both edible and delicious. Growing purslane in the garden can be beneficial for your health and taste buds.
What is Purslane?
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is an herb that is native to Asia, but has spread all across the world. It is commonly found in cleared areas. The purslane herb has red stems and fleshy, green leaves. The flowers are a bright yellow.
Purslane is high in Omega-3 fatty acids and contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron. All in all, edible purslane is a very healthy plant to add to your diet.
The hardest part about growing purslane is finding it. Once you have decided to grow purslane, you may find that although you have been pulling it out of your flower beds for years, it has suddenly disappeared. Once you do find a purslane plant, you can either harvest some seeds or trim off a few stems.
All purslane needs to grow is part to full sun and clear ground. The plants aren’t picky about soil type or nutrition, but purslane does tend to grow better in drier soil.
If you decide to plant purslane seeds, simply scatter the seeds over the area where you plan on growing the purslane. Don’t cover the seeds with soil. Purslane seeds need light to germinate so they must stay on the surface of the soil.
If you are using purslane cuttings, lay them on the ground where you plan on growing purslane. Water the stems and they should take root in the soil in a few days.
Care of Purslane Plant
The care of purslane is very simple after it starts growing. You don’t need to do anything. The same traits that make it a weed also makes it an easy to care for herb.
Make sure to harvest it regularly and be aware that it can become invasive. Harvesting before it develops flowers will help cut down on its spread.
Also, keep in mind that purslane herb is an annual. While the chances are high that it will reseed itself, you may want to collect some seeds at the end of the season so that you have some on hand for next year, rather than hunting for a new purslane plant.
If you decide to harvest wild purslane instead of growing purslane, make sure that you only harvest purslane that has not been treated with pesticides or herbicides.
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How to Grow Purslane
Chances are, the following tips and tricks on how to grow purslane are not needed in your neighborhood. Purslane is prolific. However, it’s taking hold in gardens as a groundcover and even a garden crop, so here are instructions if you’re encouraging purslane somewhere it doesn’t appear naturally.
Purslane is also called duckweed, fatweed, pursley, pussley, verdolagas and wild portulaca, and this thriving plant has fleshy succulent leaves and stems with yellow flowers. Succulent aficionados commonly remark on its similarities to baby jade plants. Originally native to India and Persia, this plant will grow well (too well, according to some gardeners) in any location that has a two-month growing period.
Commonly thought of as a weed, in fact purslane is more than that—it’s the most commonly reported weed species in the entire world. The stems of these far-flung plants radiate flatly on the ground from a single root. This can sometimes lead to large, circular mats of leaves underfoot.
Hold off on trying to defeat this leafy irritant from inhabiting a garden, though. While some gardeners tend to think of purslane as simply a weed or a nuisance, others are taking advantage of its overabundance by serving it in dishes on their dinner tables. Purslane is joining the ever-growing list of crops called superfoods, such as kale and pomegranate. High in omega-3, which is good for keeping the heart healthy, and beta carotene, this leafy green is just as good for you as salmon is, without the large price tag or environmental considerations. There’s no need to worry about the environmental impact of overfishing, for example, when you can get your heart-healthy fatty acids from your front lawn (or anywhere you find purslane thriving).
Growing Conditions for Purslane
Purslane finds many growing conditions suitable, as long as the area it is planted in has a two-month growing period. It tolerates a wide variety of light, from full sun to full shadow, as well as broad temperature ranges and soil types. Its succulent characteristics make purslane drought resistant. This plant can be tended to and cared for by even those who are unfamiliar with gardening. There’s no need to worry about killing this hardy plant, even with the blackest of thumbs. Additionally, this plant is so resilient that garden pests and diseases do not typically bother it. This plant is so hard to kill that before people knew of its health benefits, studies were conducted to learn the best way to eradicate it.
How to Plant Purslane
This plant also requires very little human intervention when planting. Its habit of growing like a weed is where purslane may get its weed-based reputation. Whether growing it from seeds, a cutting, or a stem piece, purslane will take root wherever you want it to. The only consideration gardeners must take when planting purslane is that the seeds do not like to be sown more than a half an inch deep. Tilling the seeds will bring them to the surface, allowing the seeds to germinate more easily.
The downside is that purslane sometimes takes root where it is not wanted. A large consideration when planting purslane is that it may quickly seed and germinate parts of the garden where it is not welcome. The key to keeping this stubborn plant under control is making sure it does not go to seed. Three weeks after seedlings are noticed, flowers and seeds will start being produced by the plant. To help keep purslane under control, make sure to remove these plants before they seed. Plants that are uprooted but not removed can find their way back into the soil, so make sure that they are fully removed from the area.
Uses for Purslane
As previously stated, this plant is slowly shedding its weed reputation and becoming known for its deliciousness and health benefits. Purslane has a slight lemony taste, along with a crunch when served raw. Purslane fans liken it to watercress or spinach, and many substitute purslane for spinach in recipes. Raw purslane leaves can add a textural crunch to salads or sandwiches, or they can be steamed or stir-fried if a crunch is not desired. If something is needed to thicken soups or stews, reach for the purslane, with its high level of pectin (known to lower cholesterol) which would act as a thickening agent.
The hardest part of taking care of purslane is to make sure it does not grow too out of control and take over a garden—or even an entire yard. Purslane will take over a plot or flowerbed in a heartbeat if given the opportunity. The good news is that this hearty and stubborn plant is very hard to kill. Those who do not want it in their garden may find this fact frustrating, but a good way to keep purslane under control is to take it inside and serve it as a part of dinner (or lunch—purslane is good at any time of the day).
Whether you choose to purchase seeds or take your specimens from wild purslane, this plant will be a good choice for any rookie home gardener—or those who find that their plants are more likely to die than live. Give purslane a try, both in the garden and the kitchen.
Abbie Carrier graduated from Texas Woman’s University with a Bachelor’s of Science in history and a minor in political science, and she is currently working on a Master’s of Arts in arts administration from the University of New Orleans. With this degree, she hopes to gain a position in museum curation, and she currently works as a grant writer for nonprofit organizations. She enjoys writing about the arts, history, politics, and topics related to science, health, lifestyle, and entertainment.
Purslane Herb at a Glance
Native to Europe and North Africa, purslane (Portulaca oleracea) quickly spread to the farthest corners of the world where it was welcomed in every cuisine. Once it became clear that it can be cultivated, people started to grow the various cultivars instead of the natural species. Recently the herb became popular as a superfood thanks to the various nutritional values it has.
One of the distinctive features of this succulent is that it tends to grow horizontally and covers the ground. It rises no more than an inch over the ground but it spreads out easily. That combined with the fact that it grows in the wild gave it the reputation of an invasive weed. A reputation that it certainly doesn’t deserve. That said, the cultivation of purslane is prohibited in certain parts of the United States.
As part of the Portulacaceae family, purslane has a few cousins grown mainly for their ornamental values. These include wingpod purslane and moss rose. However, the edible purslane is less showy and has leaves that taste a little like citrus. Some varieties have a salty taste as well.
In the middle of summer, small yellow flowers bloom giving the plant some decorative value. However, once the flowers pollinate, they disappear and are replaced by pods of black seeds.
I tried just hand digging out the huge, sprawling mats of the stuff. Image-wise, this worked until a couple weeks later. I soon had large patches developing in the same sites. Not one to give up easily, I dug these up again. There is a saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I was officially insane. Research indicated that any part of the purslane root or leaf left behind would cheerfully re-sprout. It was like a bad dream.
Next up was horticultural vinegar. I hoped this acidic product would burn out the plants and provide excellent purslane control. It has worked on some of my most tenacious weeds but I knew it would require reapplication. No matter, spraying was much easier than kneeling in dirt and digging. I sprayed, waited a week, sprayed again. Lather, rinse, repeat. For a month I tried the vinegar but the waxy cuticle on the leaves of these edible weeds resisted taking in the poison. What was that saying again? Vinegar was not a good purslane control.
Finally, I tried my excellent homemade, all purpose weed control solutions. Surely the plant couldn’t withstand an assault of the simple, but effective, boiling water and salt method. Nothing. The next option was a mixture of Borax and water, spot sprayed on each plant. Nada. I was really ready to rip my hair out, but it was the end of season and we had a freeze. I assumed the plant would succumb. Nope. It finally did die back after sustained freezing, and I hoped getting on it early in spring would control the problem. How many ways are there to say “no”?
You guessed it. Spring was purslane’s time. It revelled in the warming temperatures, giving me rude gestures at every turn in the garden. It was worse! Apparently each plant can shoot out thousands of seeds which will just wait in soil until conditions are ripe for germination. I probably had millions of seeds in the ground at this point. The only thing for it was solarization. Large swaths of black plastic covered the bare ground for months. Did it work? Nyet.
So I am waiting for another spring and the yearly battle with purslane. It is useless to me as an edible, it is far too prolific and tenacious, but maybe I should live with it. It has rather pretty leaves, and attractive golden blooms. Should I just treat it as a natural ground cover and not worry about it? Spring will tell the tale.
The Perks of Growing Purslane
If you have wild purslane invading your garden you are probably wondering why anyone would want to grow a cultivated version intentionally.
The short answer is because of how incredibly nutritious this plant is.
Although low in calories, purslane is very high in fiber, vitamins and omega-3′s. The 'Golden' cultivar has an almost lemony taste and goes well in salads and in juicing. It’s a wonderful green to feed your chickens as well, increasing the amount of omega 3′s in their eggs.
The down side is its tendency to want to take over the world.
Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Cultivated purslane is not nearly as invasive as its wild relative, but it will reseed itself with abandon. As we understand it, purslane will shoot its seed quite a distance.
So if you are concerned about it spreading, but would like to have the nutritional benefits of this plant, growing it indoors is one solution. Another would be to cover it with some shade cloth during the seed production time.
Simply cutting off the flowers when it blooms will not only prevent seed production, it will make the plant bushier.
Purslane is very easy to remove though, unlike many plants that can be invasive. Even the wild version gives no resistance when you pull on it.
The leaves, stems, flowers and even those seeds are edible. We have found the stems are better juiced or steamed the leaves we have been enjoying fresh. The plan now is to try our hand at growing it indoors over the winter. Come spring, we’re also going to give it its own bed in the garden, where it can reseed itself to its heart’s delight, and we will never need to plant it again.
You have got to love ‘forever’ plants.
Botanical name:Portulaca oleracea
Hardiness: Plant outdoors after the last spring frost purslane does not tolerate the cold.
Spacing: If you are growing it in the ground, give the plants about 8″ between them. It does well in a container too.
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All common purslane is edible, but there are many other purslanes that are not. Moss rose is one, for instance. The common weedy purslane can differ according to where and how it grows. I've never bought it, so I'm not sure about the big, green purslane from Mexican stores, but it's probably been watered, fertilized and cared for otherwise, to grow as large as it can. You can do the same with any that grows wild.
I've seen it with leaves an inch wide alongside irrigation ditches where it gets water as well as fertilizer runoff
Purslane is a delicate crop and should be cooled immediately after harvest. Warm temperatures after harvest will bring out the mucilaginous texture of the crop. Gardeners can either pick off stems continuously over several weeks or cut the whole plant. It will regrow if 2 inches or more of the plant is left on the stem, though it should get no more than three weeks of harvest if the flavor begins to decline and the plant shows signs of bolting. Store purslane in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, and use within a week.
If looking to grow a lot of purslane, contact chefs beforehand. It will sell a bit at market, but it is a specialty crop and may need some other outlets to move it. Ask chefs at what size they would prefer it and how many pounds. And since it is a rarer green, consider selling at herb prices.