Edible Weeds 101: The Health Benefits of Purslane

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Weeds may be an unwelcome sight in your garden, but some weeds are worth keeping around. Many weeds are edible, and some even have an array of health benefits! Purslane is one such weed. A food favored by Ghandi, purslane can and should be eaten. This succulent plant grows wild throughout the U.S., but if it's not already growing in your garden, it’s easy to find a location where you can gather it (including your local farmers’ market!). Purslane’s health benefits reside in its tear-shaped leaves, so discard the stems once you’ve harvested this plant (usually in mid-summer).

purslane
Purslane's tear-shaped leaves hold this plant's health-giving powers, so grab a handful and head to the kitchen. Photo By A. Draugli Furnituremaker/Courtesy Flickr. 

Omega-3 fatty acids: 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. This essential fatty acid plays a key role in maintaining heart health; it can lower cholesterol, regulate blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids also enrich brain health and can be useful in preventing and treating depression.

Antioxidants: Purslane is high in vitamins A, C and E, which are known for their antioxidant powers. This edible weed also contains two betalain alkaloid pigments, beta-cyanins and beta-xanthins, which act as antioxidants.

Vitamins and minerals: Purslane is low in calories and fat, but this weed does contain high amounts of dietary minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese.

Substitue purslane for other leafy green vegetables in your cooking. Use it to garnish sandwiches, add it to soups and stews, and incorporate it into your salads. If you’re pregnant, avoid purslane as it can make the uterine muscles contract. Purslane has a slightly pepper flavor and can be tart at times.