Purslane – also called ‘porcelain’ – is known to many only as a garden weed; in fact it is also a native salad plant already appreciated during the Middle Ages. The fleshy leaves have a crunchy texture and a fresh, slightly sour taste. The flower buds can be used as a substitute for capers.
Purslane grows creeping over fields, rock debris mounds, and other rocky areas. Thanks to its adaptability and rapid growth, the plant is now present almost all over the world, so much so that it is considered one of the most common plant species. The grass, which can grow to a height of 40 cm, has fleshy leaves up to 5 cm long which, depending on the season, take on a color that varies from light green to yellowish or purple. After the small yellow flowers, oval berries are formed containing many small black seeds. If not grown in a confined area, purslane spreads very easily which is why in some places it is considered a weed.
Purslane has a long tradition of thousands of years as a food and remedy. It was known as a medicinal plant as early as the eighth century BC. in ancient Babylon. The mucilages it contains are presumably responsible for its soothing effect on heartburn and other stomach ailments.
But Portulaca oleracea has also been harvested as a salad and vegetable plant for several thousand years. In the Middle Ages the plant was cultivated and there are also cultivated forms with slightly wider leaves, mostly yellowish. Even the seeds came both as a remnant and as a food. With the seeds of purslane and other wild plants, the Australian aborigines prepared the so-called seedcakes, a kind of bread.
Only young leaves should be collected before flowering. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C and have a slightly acidic, salty and nutty flavor. The crunchy texture, in particular, makes purslane leaves a good addition to salads. Probably, a substitute for salt was also obtained by incinerating the herb.
Seeds, content: about 800 seeds