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Foraging for Purslane: An Early Spring Green Right in your Backyard — and it’s FREE

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Identifying the common purslane weed — and intentionally growing purslane — is one of the easiest ways to harvest early spring greens. But until recently, I had no idea that purslane weed was edible.

purslane weed with yellow flowers

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 — common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) — is very pretty. It’s 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. If you’ve been wanting to try your hand at foraging for some wild edibles, purslane is a really easy place to start since it’s very easy to identify.

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 own yard.

Related: Eating Flowers: Perk Up Your Salads

close up of common purslane

Related: Homesteading in the City

Growing purslane

I have to admit I felt a little silly transplanting purslane from my neighbor’s yard into my own. And yet, it made perfect sense now that I knew that purslane is edible. Purslane will grow almost anywhere, popping up in dry, rocky driveways or fertile garden beds. It’s an annual that reseeds itself every year, and seeds are known to be viable for up to 40 years!

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.)

Using common purslane

Choose young plants and tender new shoots for the best flavor. Purslane can be eaten raw or cooked as a green. Try adding it to sandwiches, salads, and smoothies.

The leaves are somewhat succulent with a mild flavor. (Not fuzzy and offensive on the tongue like uncooked dandelion greens, another spring green that people commonly forage for.) Purslane flowers are a bright yellow.

Purslane benefits

Growing purslane — or foraging for it — it good for your health! Common purslane is high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid generally found in vegetables. It’s also high in vitamins A, C and E, and in dietary minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese.

Related: How to Ethically Forage for Edible Plants

purslane weed with yellow flowers

Originally published in March, 2013.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

22 comments… add one
  • April Mar 2, 2013, 9:55 am

    I haven’t found any purslane yet, or at least I hadn’t identified it. There is something that grows around here called mallow that is supposed to be an edible “weed”. I haven’t been courageous enough to try it yet, but it pops up in my garden. Maybe this will be my year to try it. I will look more carefully for the purslane. I know it grows here, so I doubt my acre is somehow missing it. Thanks for the great picture.

    • Marie Apr 12, 2015, 8:40 am

      in Central NY it grows close to the ground, has round red stems
      makes wonderful infused vinegars

  • Sonia (foodiesleuth) Mar 2, 2013, 7:07 pm

    I had some growing in my garden when I lived in SC but I don’t have any here…haven’t seen it growing anywhere around us!

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 6, 2013, 2:09 pm

      Sonia, I should have plenty to share in no time! 😉

  • Alexandra Mar 11, 2013, 9:33 am

    I saw this at the farmers market last spring and could not believe my eyes. I always pulled it up, thinking it was a weed. Besides adding it to smoothies, what is a good way to cook it? Braised with garlic?? Do you harvest only the tips??

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 17, 2013, 11:00 am

      I harvest only the teardrop shaped leaves. I have an aversion to cooked greens, but I have added it to soups and also salads.

  • Brette Jun 5, 2013, 8:13 am

    I have never tried purslane. I haven’t seen any in my yard but will keep an eye open as I go for walks!

  • cathy Jun 5, 2013, 9:49 am

    Ha HA! I found this growing in an area I have been trying to get ground cover to grow. I pulled them out once, they came back, I noticed they had little flowers as well, and just decided to leave it, as it is spreading better than the “stepables” plants I bought! Now I know I can also pick the leaves for salads! Of course, will have to clean them well… I have dogs…

  • Russ Jun 6, 2014, 2:37 pm

    steamed with onion then add one can of stewed tomatoes let simmer for short time, yummy

  • pam Jun 6, 2014, 5:15 pm

    I have it growing in my garden and pick it when I pick my lettuce along with lambs quarters. Homemade balsamic vinegarette.  Yummy !! 

  • Cautious Forager Jun 7, 2014, 2:38 pm

    Just don’t forget that purslane has a toxic lookalike! True purslane has juicy, bright-green leaves; spurge looks like purslane but has flatter leaves and a milky sap.

  • K.N.Malathi Oct 11, 2014, 7:20 pm

    I am from India and the poorer class of people , in my country forage these for their food. I accidentally discovered this green in my garden and was identified by my garden help as an edible plant. I have now learnt from her how to use this in my cooking . See my post ( Link below) for a bit of info on this very nutritive plant.
    https://xploreandxpress.blogspot.in/2012/12/organic-gardenning-lets-eat-that-weed.html

  • maria Jul 4, 2015, 12:56 pm

    I am 66 years old I was born in Sicily when we came to Australia my mother would pick this plant growing in cracks in the streets of north Melbourne where we lived, when we went to visit an aunt of my mothers and she would make it into a salad later as I got older and I would hear Australia born people criticism that as they called us wogs ,we were picking weeds as I explained to them to the people that pick them there not weeds I am very proud of my parents because they were survivors and not waiting on handout and still in Sicily today there’s no hand out.now in2015 people are finding the value of weeds Maria

  • Florita Arichea Nov 28, 2015, 7:51 am

    A whole lot of people including me do not know this is healthy. Where I came from this a wild weed that grows abundantly in the fields. We gather these by the sacks, chop them up and boil them in big vats and feed it to the hogs. If it is that good then it could be a good and healthy food for a lot of people. If and when it becomes accepted and popular, it will join all the other leafy vegetables in the market and will be just as expensive.

    • Toes Jun 5, 2016, 6:56 pm

      Why not feed it to the pigs raw?

  • Toes Jun 5, 2016, 7:01 pm

    No need to transplant it with roots “Purslane is an annual reproducing from seeds and from stem pieces. Seeds of purslane have been known to stay viable for 40 years in the soil… If you are trying to control purslane the number one rule is don’t let it go to seed. About three weeks after you notice seedlings, the flowers and seeds will be produced. Also plants or plant pieces that are uprooted but not removed can root back into the soil… Running a tiller through purslane is called purslane multiplication.” https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/homeowners/030726.html

  • KATHY WILLIAMS Oct 14, 2017, 4:13 am

    I HAD NO IDEA THIS WAS SO EATIBLE UNTIL JUST NOW WHEN THE BEE KEAPER REMOVING HONEY BEES FROM OUR HOUSE ATE SOME FRON A FLOWER POT OF MINE. LAST SUMMER I HAD ONE POT ANOW I HAVE 6 LARGE BECAUSE I FOUND THAT WHEN I TRIM IT I JUST LAY IT INTO ANIOTHER POT COVER WITH A LITTLE DIRT AND IT ROOTS OVERNIGHT….IT HAD PRETTY RED AND YELLOW FLORWERS THAT OPEN IN THE MORNING AND CLOSE IN THE EVENING JUST LIKE MORNING GLORIES. I JUST LOVE IT AND AM ANXIOUS TO TRY IT IN OUR SALADS. KATHY WILLIAMS

  • MWW May 30, 2018, 1:02 am

    My Ex-wife’s Ex-husband came across this WEED some time ago and introduced it to me when we were both discussing ways to balance blood levels which we both have problems with.

    Anyways, he decided not to pursue the healthy plant but I took the little shared info and ran with it. I then immediately begin studying it and learned how to ID it and begin finding it and transporting it out of the wild into indoor flower pots and allowed it to grow all summer long and even built wooden boxes and put them out on my deck and so now it comes up year after year and I am able to enjoy the harvest knowing that its safe and clean to consume. So I begin growing this wonderful beautiful plant and allowed it to mature. I eat it every chance I get, its tasty, its seven times more beneficial than spinach, balances out blood levels, heals the internal organs, increases so many positives medically speaking. Other plants that give out god driven benefits are sunflowers, watercress, and others.

    If you need to learn to ID the PURSLANE PLANT its very easy. Always break the stem first, if water (clear) substance comes from it then it is safe to eat plus the leaves have a lemon like taste to them plus the plant once it matures contains real yellow small flowers about the size of a teardrop. But that’s funny, because the leaves are shaped like teardrops. Also, there is a another plant that looks like the Purslane Plant but it is darker and it grows closer to the ground. Can put you under ground if you consume it. They call it Purge. The main give away (like most plants that are unsafe to consume) this plant when you break the stem produces a “white substance” like matter which means the plants are unsafe for human consumption.

    Hope this helps.

    • Kris Bordessa May 30, 2018, 6:41 pm

      I love that you’re transplanting purslane!

  • Laura Mar 17, 2019, 3:57 pm

    What about the purslane they sell at the nursery, that has many different colored flowers?

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 20, 2019, 1:16 pm

      That is related, called moss rose, yes? I wouldn’t eat that.

  • Lemongrass Mar 19, 2019, 2:24 pm

    My first contact with purslane was at the Union Square farmers’ market in NYC. I loved it from the first taste. I made sure I carried some seeds with me. I tuck a few seedling here and there in the garden whenever they are 2 to 3 inches tall. I usually use them in pesto combined with other greens.

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