Although the Portulaca oleracea plant, better known as Purslane, Common Purslane, or Moss Rose, is seen as a prostrate weed by many gardeners in the USA, in Europe it has a long history of culinary use, and may often make up part of a vegetable garden. It has a similar flavour to watercress and spinach.
As there are many cultivars available it can also be used as an ornamental plant in addition to its use as a salading. Unlike the small yellow flowers of the wild-type, ornamental cultivars have flowers that can be up to two inches (5 cm) in diameter; and these may be pink, white, or orange.
Wild Purslane photograph by Isidre blanc; CC.
If growing purslane to eat then be aware that they are tastiest when young. So ideally use young leaves and newly grown stem tips for the best tenderness. Ideally eat raw, but if you wish to cook it then do not over heat as it will go slimy.
Although the plant is mainly water it is a rich source of vitamins and minerals. It is especially rich in vitamims E and C. It is also a good soure of magnesium, manganese, and Iron.
The plant is naturally native to the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe and Northern Africa; and West and southern Asia.
In addition to its culinary uses, Purslane also makes a good companion plant. This is because this beneficial weed has the ability to cover bare ground can create humid microclimates. It naturally has deep roots, other plants can follow these roots down enabling them to draw up more moisture and nutrients than they would be able to normally.
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