native to: India and Iran
in season here: summer
Also called pigweed, verdolago, or little hopweed, Portulaca oleracea is often considered a weed around here — or at best, a readily available green mulch. It’s tolerant of both drought and poor soil. Leaves, smaller stems, and flower buds appear in many Asian and European cuisines, especially South Indian dishes. It can be eaten raw in salads, stir-fried, or curried. It is often compared to arugula or spinach and can be used similarly.
Purslane is higher in omega-3 fatty acids than some fish oils, making it popular among vegans. In fact, it’s generally considered to be the richest cultivated plant source of omega-3s, rivaled only by certain wild greens like molokhia and stamnagathi. It has plenty of vitamins A, C, E, and some Bs; its mineral offerings include iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. It’s an excellent source of anti-oxidants and a particularly good source of alpha-linolenic acid, which has been linked to coronary health and general longevity. Along with amaranth, lamb’s quarters greens, watercress, and lettuce, purslane is one of the richest herbal sources of anti-depressant substances.
Purslane doesn’t keep very well, which may be why it’s so hard to find, especially for those who lack a good farmers’ market. It starts to lose nutrition as soon as it’s harvested, so the fresher you can eat it, the better. It spreads readily, making some gardeners reluctant to grow their own, but it can be grown in containers to help control it (just don’t let it go to seed). It also makes a good microgreen.
It should be noted that purslane is a source of oxalic acid and should be avoided or eaten with caution by those susceptible to calcium-oxalate kidney stones or urinary issues such as bladder stones, or with other oxalic acid concerns. Pregnant women are also commonly advised to avoid purslane, which promotes uterine contractions and can cause miscarriage.