Portulaca Oleracea: Growing Garden Purslane

| 6/22/2012 8:50:10 PM

H.CardenasHeidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and gardener in Lake County, Illinois, with a background in human resources. She has written about gardening for various online venues and enjoys The Herb Companion’s valuable resources. 

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is also called garden purslane, green purslane, common purslane, verdolaga, hogweed and pigweed. It is also known as Ma Chi Xian (meaning horse tooth amaranth) in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is an annual “juicy” herb, or succulent, native to Europe and distributed throughout India, China and Japan. It’s a small plant, growing only six inches high, and is a great salad herb for counter or patio containers. The tiny seeds are easy to germinate for succession planting every six weeks and continuous salad crops that can be cut back for a second flush of growth. The small oval green leaves taste similar to spinach and like spinach, are eaten raw, blanched or boiled. Move over wheatgrass! Purslane can be juiced for a healthy green drink or as an addition to green smoothies. 

Green Purslane  

What does purslane look like?

Purslane plants are low-growing, bushy succulent plants with reddish stems and clusters of small, oval, dark green leaves. Plants that are cut for salads and green side dishes become bushier as they replace cut growth. Purslane produces tiny yellow flowers with five petals that are not very conspicuous, and grow into tiny fruit capsules encasing many tiny black seeds. The plants are pretty in mixed container plantings for salad greens.

Growing Purslane

Purslane seeds sprout easily if kept evenly moist in light, rich soil. When seedlings are established, put them in full sun and water them at least three times a week. As a succulent, purslane tolerates drought, but does better with regular moisture. Broadcast the tiny seeds atop prepared soil inside or in hot beds in cold springs, or sprinkle right in the garden when the soil has warmed up. Let every other patch in a succession planting go to seed for a continuous supply of fresh seed throughout the growing season. The tiny flowers produce tiny seed capsules, which split and disseminate seed when ripe and dried out. Purslane is a persistent succulent which goes quickly to seed when uprooted to perpetuate, so be careful where you plant it in the garden, as pulling it up only encourages it. It is more easily controlled in containers.

Purslane Health Benefits

Purslane is high in omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of alpha-linolenic acid, calcium, potassium and vitamins E, C and A. Purslane has strong antibiotic, antifungal and antiparasitic properties. It is used effectively in China to treat dysentery, parasites and appendicitis without surgery.

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