Purslane (aka pusley, pigweed, or verdolaga) is a “nutritional powerhouse” that might just be growing in your yard! Native to India and Persia, and used by Hippocrates as medicine, purslane has spread throughout the world as an edible plant and as a weed. Purslane is a rich source of fatty acids (ALA), vitamin E, vitamin C, and some B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and carotenoids, as well as dietary minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese. If you currently take fish oil capsules, omega-3 oil capsules, flax oil, or antidepressants, a switch to purslane could improve your health and save you lots of money, too. That’s right, purslane counters depression: it is one of the herbs (along with watercress, amaranth greens, and lamb’s quarters) that is richest in antidepressant substances (tryptophan, magnesium, and phenylalanine) which moderate the effects of depressive brain chemicals. Also present in purslane are two types of “betalain” alkaloid pigments, the reddish “beta-cyanins” and the yellow “beta-xanthins.” Both of these pigment types are potent antioxidants and have been found to have anti-mutagenic properties in laboratory studies. [Proc. West. Pharmacol. Soc. 45: 101-103 (2002)] Pusley is widely grown in many Asian and European regions as staple leafy vegetable.
Its leaves appear thick (containing “mucilaginous” substance) and have a slightly sour and salty taste. Steam it, sautee it, or add it to your salads, soups, and smoothies. In addition to succulent stems and leaves, its yellow flower buds are also edible. Purslane seeds (which look like black tea powder) are often used to make herbal drinks.
Interestingly, each plant produces almost a quarter of a million seeds! And purslane grows just about anywhere, in any type of soil, so it’s a good “weed” to have around. So, next time you see purslane growing wild in your yard, you’ll know the answer to the question, “Should I weed it, or eat it?” 😉