Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America
A Complete Wild Food Guide
Glistrida Greek salad with Purslane. (By: Lemur12 CC BY-SA 3.0)
Season: Spring & Summer
Urban, Rural or Both: Both
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Also called the Little Hogweed. It is common most everywhere. It is, as the Latin name suggests, a very close relative of the Portulaca flower you can buy for your garden. This is a cultivated food crop in India and parts of Europe. This is one of the best raw greens there is, period. It is just bizarre you can't buy this in grocery stores. The fact most of us in the west pull this "weed" from our gardens to give room to other plants that don't taste as good or grow as well just makes me nuts. And the fact it wants to grow almost anywhere and never seems bothered by pests, makes it an ideal crop.
Greens & Flowers:
An odd feature of this green vegetable that the earlier in the day you pick it, the stronger the lemony bite of the taste, and the later in the day you pick it, the milder it is. Try tasting it different times during the day and you will find a time it suits your taste best.
This is an amazingly versatile food. All parts of the plant above ground are usable in salads, stir-frying, soups, almost anything. In salads, it ads a zing to the flavor, like a natural vinegar or lemon. In soups it acts as a thickener. In a stir-fry it acts like Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus). I like it best as a salad green or just eating a handful when I find them. Very good raw taste, and nice crisp texture. Eat the stems, the flowers and all. Just cut or snap a section off, rinse and eat.
The Purslane plant produces huge number of tiny seeds in sacks at the end of each stem. I find collecting them to be a lot of work for the amount of food you get, but they do taste good in any kind of cooking.
They can be ground into flour, or added whole to any type of bread dough. I also put them whole into soups. They have also been used tradionally for making seed cakes.
Growing this plant in your home garden:
For detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Purslane page.
- Plant Size: Can reach as high as 40 cm (16 inches), but found most often a few centimeters off the ground acting like a Prostrate shrub, that is growing out horizontally from the base along the ground. Very often you will see them with horizontal stems coming from a single, central root spreading out in a circle shape.
- Duration: Annual
- Leaf Shape: Obovate (oar-shaped), very thick leaf (it is a succulent plant).
- Leaf Phyllotaxis (Leaf Arrangement) on branch: Alternate in clusters at end of stems.
- Leaf Size: 1.25-5 cm (1/2 to 2 inches) long
- Leaf Margin: Entire (smooth edged)
- Stems: Dull red, sometimes green with red hue. Edible (same as leaf)
- Flowers: Small (0.5 cm or less) bright yellow, five petalled.
- Fruit: little pods full of extremely small, black or reddish brown seeds
- Habitat: Anywhere in full light and disturbed soils - waste areas, fields, gardens. Able to tolerate poor, compacted soils and drought, but grows better in better soils
- Recipe search on the web here (Google search) and here (Bing search).
- Glistrida Greek salad
- Pictures on the web here (Google images) and here (Bing images).
- USDA distribution map and plant profile here.
- The Biota of North America Program (BONAP) distribution map here. BONAP map color key here.
Close up of Purslane leaves and flowers. (By: Ethel Aardvark CC BY-SA 3.0)
(By: Frank Vincentz CC BY-SA 3.0)
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) seeds. (Steve Hurst, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)
Drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 40)
Purslane plant. The young stems are edible and tender too. This one was growing on dry, poor soil during a drought.
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