Wild Edible Plants: Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea)

The common Purslane or “Pusley”, made famous by Charles Dudley Warner, is no familiar that most people despise it as a mere weed. As a matter of fact, however, in many “victory-gardens” the crop of Purslane has more potential value for food than the ignorantly nursed or neglected planted crops.

Cooking Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea)When cooked and seasoned like spinach, the tender young branches make one of the most palatable of potherbs, with little loss of bulk in cooking, so that a small patch of vigorous plants clipped of their new tips and allowed to sprout again is sufficient to supply a table throughout summer.

The fatty or slimy quality of Purslane is sometimes objectionable, but by chopping the cooked tips and then baking with bread-crumbs and a beaten egg this disagreeable quality in entirely disguised.

It is truly surprising how few sophisticated Americans appreciate the esculent qualities of Purslane,, since our ancestors, both in America and in Europe, were fully cognizant of them. Thus we find the distinguished Manaseh Cutler, in the 18th century, stating that, as a potherb it is little inferior to asparahus, while in the 16th century John Gerarde wrote that “Rawe Purslane is much used in salads with oile, salt, and vinegar.”

Others speak of it as a palatable and easily procured pickle. Thus the always delightfully concrete John Evelyn in 1706 gave these detailed directions:

Lay the Stalks in an Earten-Pan; then cover them with Beer-Vinegar and Water, keeping them down with a competent Weight, to imbibe, three Days : Being taken out, put them into a Pot with as much White-wine Vinegar as will cover them again; and close the Lid with Paste, to keep in the Steam : Then set them on the Fire for three or four Hours, often shaking and stirring them : Then open the Cover, and turn and remove those Stalks which lie at the Bottom, to the Top, and boil them as before, till they are all a Colour. When all is cold, Pot them with Fresh White-wine Vinegar, and so you may preserve them the whole Year round.

Edible Parts

  • Stems
  • Leaves
  • Flowers


Purslane may be used fresh as a salad, stir-fried, or cooked as spinach is, and because of its mucilaginous quality it also is suitable for soups and stews. Australian Aborigines use the seeds to make seedcakes.

Purslane Salad

Greeks, who call it andrakla (αντράκλα) or glystrida (γλυστρίδα), fry the leaves and the stems with feta cheese, tomato, onion, garlic, oregano, and olive oil. In Turkey, besides being used in salads and in baked pastries, it is cooked as a vegetable similar to spinach.

According to Dr. Edward Palmer, the seeds of this and related species are used by the southwestern Indians for making mush or bread, the plants being placed in large piles, dried, and then pounded to free the seeds. Be sure first to wash off all mud and sad.

Therapeutic Uses

  • Purslane is widely used as a potherb in Mediterranean, central European and Asian countries.
  • Purslane is also widely used as an ingredient in a green salad. Tender stems and leaves are usually eaten raw, alone or with other greens. They are also cooked or pickled for consumption.
  • Purslane is used in various parts of the world to treat burns, headaches, stomach, intestinal and liver ailments, cough, shortness of breath and arthritis.
  • Purslane herb has also been used as a purgative, cardiac tonic, emollient, muscle relaxant, and in anti-inflammatory and diuretic treatments.
  • Purslane is popularly preserved for winter by pickling Purslane in apple cider vinegar with garlic cloves and peppercorns.
  • Purslane appears among a list of herbs considered to help benefit conditions such as osteoporosis and psoriasis.

Medicinal Uses

Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid in particular) than any other leafy vegetable plant. Research published by Simopoulos states that Purslane has 0.01 mg/g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This is an extraordinary amount of EPA for a land-based vegetable source. 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

Known as Ma Chi Xian (pinyin: translates as “horse tooth amaranth”) in traditional Chinese medicine, its active constituents include: noradrenaline, calcium salts, dopamine, DOPA, malic acid, citric acid, glutamic acid, asparagic acid, nicotinic acid, alanine, glucose, fructose, and sucrose.Betacyanins isolated from Portulaca oleracea ameliorated cognition deficits in aged mice. Use is contraindicated during pregnancy and for those with cold and weak digestion. Purslane is a clinically effective treatment for oral lichen planus, and its leaves are used to treat insect or snake bites on the skin, boils, sores, pain from bee stings, bacillary dysentery, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, postpartum bleeding, and intestinal bleeding.

The Self Nutrition Data can be found here

Where Does Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) Grow?

Purslane Growing Area

How To Identify Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea)

Overall Appearance

This herb is a trailing annual with reddish, fleshy stems whose ends will form roots when they come in contact with the ground. Cultivated Purslane also known as Pusley & Verdolaga grows about 3 inches high and 12 to 18 inches wide.

Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) Leaves


  • The fleshy leaves are long, oval or spoon shaped and about 1/2 to 2 inches long.
  • Purslane has small, oblong, green leaves, which form clusters. Leaves are usually in clusters of 5 or 6 and are delicate and juicy.
  • The leaf has a central fibrous channel or stem extension, without pronounced branching of side channels.
  • The leaves have a mild flavor.


  • The stem is round and smooth, and it trails along the ground like a small vine.
  • Young plants have a green stem but as the plant matures the stems take on reddish tints. Creeping stems are reddish brown, about 10 inches long, with frequent branching.

Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) Flowers


Flowers are 1/4 inch long and a brilliant yellow in colour with 5 petals, which contain miniscule round

1 Comment

One Response to “Wild Edible Plants: Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea)”

  1. Wyandotte says:

    Where I live (prairies) the flowers sure don’t look like the ones in that photo. They are tiny and hardly visible.

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