Purslane Family - Portulaceae
Portulaca oleraceae - Purslane
It has been used in salads and as a medicinal plant (for people) for hundreds of years. Called Verdolaga in spanish, it is a vegetable green used in many Latin American countries. It is also popular as a salad green in France and other European countries. It is similar in taste and consistency to watercress. It can be eaten fresh or cooked and has no bitter taste at all. Since it has a mucilaginous quality it is great for soups and stews.
It has rosettes of fleshy, paddle-shaped leaves, each with a small (1/4” wide) yellow flower. It is grows low to the ground in large circular mats up to 1.2m across and it is succulent with short leaves less than an inch long scattered along its brownish stems. The flowers only open for a few hours in the morning sun and there are usually five petals but sometimes four or six. Its seeds are ovate to triangular, reddish brown to black and shiny. Each plant is capable of producing 240,000 seeds which are viable for up to 40 years. It is found in gardens and bare ground from June to October.
Verdolaga is also valued in Latin America for its medicinal properties. Purslane contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plants, and may have positive effects on the brain and may aid in such conditions as depression, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's disease, autism, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity and migraines. For other medicinal uses see: http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/medicinal/portula.html#efficacy
American Indians used the plant as a poultice for burns, juice for earaches, tea for headaches and stomachaches.
It is believed to be native to Iran or India, although it was present in the New World at the time of European colonization.
Many farmers in the Northeast know it as the herbaceous weed common purslane (Portulaca oleracea). There are cultivated varieties that grow in a more upright fashion than the weed, and have larger flowers.
There is a cultivated variety which is larger and grows more upright than the wild species. Seed after danger of frost and thin to 4-6” apart. It can also be started in pots and transplanted. For production of the wild type, farmers will disk a field that is infected with common purslane to encourage uniform growth.
Common names worldwide include:
- Farfena (Central Oman)
- Gelang pasir
- Golasiman (Philippines)
- Ma Ch'Ih Hsien
- Ngalug (Philippines)
- Pig weed
- Pourpier Commun, Pourpier
- Purslane (U.S.)
- Pusley (U.S.)
- Rigla (Egypt)
- Stilchi (Garo in India)
- Verdolaga (Dominican Republic)
- Vertolaga (Peruvian Amazon)