Sunday, August 4, 2013

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Purslane

On the left, three views of the same apple, drawn with my new favorite pen, a Uniball Vision (fine, waterproof).  This apple was on a tree in a very old orchard in the woods near my house.  Students at the college have been trying to bring the orchard (which dates from very early in the 20th century) back for the past couple of years.  This year the trees are full of small apples, and they don't look wormy.  I found this one under a tree, drew it, and ate it.  Delicious!

On the right, drawings of three wonderful little ceramic tea cups in my kitchen.  I have a soft spot for wonky ceramics, preferably made by beginners and purchased at student art sales.

The teapot is another student piece, but this one was left behind in a studio at the end of the year.  It has lovely celandine glaze, a lid that doesn't exactly fit, a spout that shoots the tea out toward the teapot instead of the cup, and an upside down handle.  Perfect for my collection.  Oh, and the whole pot seems to have been sat on by a very light person or a small animal before it was dried.

On the right is a drawing as well as a tutorial on purslane (portulaca oleracea).  I discovered purslane a few years ago at a very good restaurant in Asheville.  It was part of a salad.  The owner of the restaurant, a friend, told me that it was very good for you as well as good-tasting, and that most people around here  have it growing as a weed in their gardens.  I had never noticed it in our yard or garden;  but when I checked the next day I found it everywhere!  You can recognize it from a related but poisonous plant by its clear sap (the poisonous plant has milky sap) and its red stem and light green, somewhat succulent leaves.  It's great mixed into a salad and also goes well in pasta, stir frys, and sautes.  Purslane can substitute for okra as a thickener in gumbos.   You'll probably have to weed out some of it even if you like it because it's tremendously prolific, sending out millions of tiny black seeds from boxy little seed pods, and it self-seeds every year.  The seeds are comparable to poppy seeds and caraway seeds and can be used in breads and pastas for flavoring.

Not only is purslane tasty, but it's very good for you.  Culpepper suggests it for coughs, vomiting, skin conditions, sleeplessness, and shortness of breath.  It's higher in vitamin C than leaf lettuces and was used to treat scurvy in early times.  It's also high in vitamin A and E, Omega 3 fatty acids,  iron, calcium, coenzyme Q, potassium, silicone, phosphorus, copper, and pectin.  Herbalists today use it to treat UTIs (it is mildly diuretic), elevated cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, boils, cuts, psoriasis, and dermatitis.  All this, and it has no known side effects, costs nothing, and you can get it without a costly visit to a prescription-writer. 


  1. Not more than I wanted to know, but just the right amount. It's wild that you posted this today. Just Friday my husband and I were out in the garden and he pointed to a plant and said, "I think you are supposed to be able to eat that, but I don't know what it's called." I told him I thought it was purslane, and that I'd look it up when we went in. Of course after another hour of weeding and harvesting, I totally forgot about it until I saw your subject line. Tomorrow I will check the sap color. :)

  2. yes, it is tasty, but it can TAKE OVER your garden! ...and continue coming up everywhere even after you have changed your mind about growing it. Beware!

  3. Funny coincidence, Dawn! I wouldn't be surprised if that's what you have. And Sue, yes it IS prolific! One way to handle it is to pull up the whole plant (weed it) when you want to use it. That sort of keeps it in check. I also keep it contained by using straw mulch where I don't want it. And actually it's easier to pull up than the ground ivy and nut grass and other weeds we have!

  4. ok, gwen, geesh, so now i've got to try yet another green! (it's ok, i'm open to new greens!)