Identifying the common purslane weed — and intentionally growing purslane — is one of the easiest ways to harvest early spring greens.
The idea of growing common purslane on purpose — or at least allowing it to remain in my garden — was a new one to me.
You see, until recently, I had no idea that purslane weed was edible.
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Here’s how it looked before my enlightenment:
In early spring I’d prepare my garden beds, plant seeds of lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and bok choy, wait for them to sprout, hope the snails and snails didn’t get them, curse this thriving purslane weed that was growing rampantly, and pull them all out.
The plant itself is very pretty – low growing and not overly aggressive, with teardrop shaped leaves – but it just didn’t belong there, in my garden.
Sure, now it seems silly.
Foraging for common purslane weed
Turns out, people savvier than me forage for common purslane in the springtime, seeking it out as a local addition to their meal plan.
And here I was, pulling it out and tossing it into the compost.
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I have to admit I felt a little silly transplanting common purslane weed from my neighbor’s yard into my own.
And yet, it made perfect sense now that I knew it was an edible spring green.
My transplanted purslane is now thriving, mingling freely with beets and tomatillos. (It spreads and stays low, so it acts as a living mulch, too, keeping down the weeds.)
I’ve added purslane leaves to salads and smoothies and nobody around here has complained.
The leaves are somewhat succulent with a mild flavor. (Not fuzzy and offensive on the tongue like uncooked dandelion greens.) Purslane flowers are a bright yellow.
According to Mother Earth News:
Purslane contains high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid generally found in vegetables, as well as small amounts of EPA and DHA, omega-3 fatty acids more commonly found in fish.
It’s also high in vitamins A, C and E, and in dietary minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese.
If you’ve been wanting to try your hand at foraging for some wild edibles, purslane is a really easy place to start.
But while you’re harvesting purslane for your dinner table, be sure to dig a couple of plants out by the root so you can begin growing purslane in your yard.
You’ll like having it close at hand, I think.
This post was originally published in March, 2013. Updated, April 2018.