Many people pull this plant from their gardens thinking it is a nuisance weed. But it actually has many health benefits and is popular in several cuisines around the world.
Purslane (portulaca oleracea) has fleshy succulent leaves and stems with yellow flowers and is very resilient growing in many conditions from fertile garden soil to the poorest arid areas and can take over a rocky driveway, hence its reputation as being simple a weed. Its hardiness is demonstrated by the fact that the seeds can stay viable, buried in soil for up to 40 years.
It has its origins in Persia and India but is now common throughout the world and it is now believed that it can provide us with various health benefits.
Studies have shown that it has a higher level of beneficial antioxidants than spinach (i) and greater concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids than some fish oils whilst having the additional advantage of being suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Antioxidants are hugely beneficial to our health helping to reduce heart disease, atherosclerosis , cancer, memory loss, and age-related vision loss as well as boosting our immune systems (ii).
Omega-3 fatty acids powerfully anti-inflammatory and recognized as playing a role in the reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis, Alzeimer’s disease and dementia, asthma, heart disease and depression (ii).
It is an extremely rich source of vitamin A, which again can protect against certain types of cancer and improve eye health. A serving of 100g of Purslane can provide as much as 44% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A.
Purslane also contains vitamins C, and B-complex including riboflavin, pyridoxine, and niacin, carotenoids, and several trace minerals including iron, magnesium, and calcium.
Purslane starts to lose its nutritional qualities immediately after harvesting. If you don’t have a big garden or if you fear that planting purslane will take over your entire vegetable garden, try growing it indoors as a microgreen. All you need is an empty container, some potting soil, organic purslane seeds and a sunny window sill. Simply sow the seeds, keep the soil moist (but avoid over-watering), and watch your micro-purslane grow!
In the Middle East it is common to find this plant being sold in bundles in the local markets and used in many dishes. It is considered to be a ‘cooling’ food in hot climates.
It is also widely used in some Mediterranean dishes. You can sauté it with onions, garlic and tomatoes or make a salad with olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice. It makes a great health boosting ingredient to add to soups or smoothies. Suddenly it doesn’t sound like a weed anymore!
Please note that pregnant women are commonly advised to avoid eating purslane.
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