Purslane
(Portulaca oleracea)

Weed Wacker
From Stalking the Wild Dandelion

A Guide to Wild Edible Plants for Parents
and Teachers to Use With Children

A new, as yet unpublished, work-in-progress.

Purslane Leaves and Stems
Purslane Leaves and Stems

Description:

A succulent, sprawling plant of lawns and meadows; flowers inconspicuous, 1/5 inch wide, five yellow petals tucked between the branches, mid-summer to fall; fruit capsules up to 1/4 inch long, filled with tiny, round, black seeds; leaves paddle-shaped, succulent, stalkless 1/2 to 2 inches long, alternate or opposite; stem reddish, succulent, branching, creeping, 4-10 inches long.

Purslane is one of my favorite summer vegetables, with a mild, sweet-sour flavor and a chewy texture. Its reddish stem, nearly as thick as a computer cable, creeps along the ground, rarely getting taller than a pint of milk. The stalkless leaves are paddle shaped, about as long as a small paper clip.

Purslane Leaves and Stems
Purslane Leaves, Stems and Flower Buds
Blooming in the summer, the 5-petaled, tiny yellow flowers hide between the base of the leaf and the stem.
Purslane Flower
Purslane Flower
The tiny black seeds are hardly larger than grains of salt. If you look very carefully at the end of summer, you may be able to find them pouring out of tiny capsules smaller than a filling in a tooth.
Purslane Fruit and Seeds
Purslane Fruit Capsules and Seeds
Purslane leaves and stems are great raw in salads. You can steam them or add them to soups, stews, and other vegetable dishes. Beware of spurge, a different-looking poisonous creeping wild plant that sometimes grows near purslane. The stem is wiry, not thick, and it gives off a white, milky sap when you break it. If you're very careless, you may put some in your bag along with purslane, because they sometimes grow together on lawns, gardens, and meadows.
Purslane Going to Seed
Purslane Going to Seed
Purslane comes from India, where it was a food crop centuries ago. It was Gandhi's favorite food. Now it also grows across America, and around the world. It has a wonderful survival tactic: The succulent (juicy) stem, keeps it from drying out. If someone decides purslane is a "weed" and uproots it, it uses the water in the stem to make seeds before it dies, and soon there'll be even more purslane.
Read an article by "Wildman" about purslane in the Vegetarian Times.
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