Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is widely distributed around the world, usually as a weed on driveways, or in field crops and lawns.
Despite this, it possesses substances which are of nutritional importance. Rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron, it is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid.
It contains the vitamins A, B, C and E, as well as important antioxidants.
Although considered a weed in the US, it is eaten as a vegetable throughout much of Asia, Europe, Mexico and the Middle East. The stems, leaves and flower buds are all edible. Purslane may be used fresh as a salad, stir-fried, or cooked like spinach. It is also suitable for soups and stews.
Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable. The good news for vegetarians and vegans is that it also contains EPA, which is not found in flax seed, and which can usually only be found in oily fish.
Also present are red betacyanins (visible in the colouration of the stems) and yellow betaxanthins (noticeable in the flowers and in the yellowish cast of the leaves). Both are powerful antioxidants that have been found to have anti-cancer properties.
Until a few months ago, Penny and I had never heard of Purslane. Now we eat it often, and notice it everywhere.
At a recent garden show, we saw it for sale (top picture). What made us smile was that when we looked down, it was growing underfoot (bottom picture).