This nutritional powerhouse is probably growing in your backyard right now, and most of us will mistake it for just another pesky weed! But, before you “weed” this green out of your yard and into the garbage can, you may want to throw it on your salad instead!
It’s called Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) or also known as cat’s tongue, and it’s chalked filled with incredible flavor and nutrients. Not only is it great for our skin, urinary and digestive systems, it also has a perfect combination of antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and carotene. Purslane has expanded to a lot of places around the world and has been used by various communities as a medicinal plant. And the best part? Purslane is also edible and can be utilized as a vegetable. My grandmother can attest to that! She grew up in a small town in Italy and says, “We have been eating Purslane for decades. It’s delicious!”
But, she’s not the only one who sees the benefits in this powerful weed.
“It’s a miracle plant,” said Dr. Artemis Simopoulos, president of the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health in Washington, who discovered while working at the National Institutes of Health that the plant had the highest level of Omega-3 fatty acids of any other green plant.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known as “Good fats” or essential fatty acids. These good fats are needed in our system to achieve a balance within you from the beating of our hearts to our ability to learn and retain the information—memory.
There are two types of essential fatty acids (EFAs), omega-6 and omega-3. The problem with our modern diet is that it contains far more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s. This imbalance makes us more vulnerable to heart disease, cancer, obesity, autoimmune diseases, allergies, diabetes, and depression. Purslane is not only a good source of fatty acid, but it also offers plenty of minerals, including, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, copper, magnesium, calcium and copper, plus vitamins, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients like alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), tocopherols, riboflavin, vitamin C and beta-carotene.
Purslane contains carbohydrate and protein plus amino acids which can help our body to make protein. A few other beneficial substances found in this weed is pectin which is believed to reduce LDL (low-density lipoprotein.
Sergio Vitale, owner of the very successful restaurant, ALDO’s grew up eating the weed in his native Calabria, in southern Italy.
“When you bite into it, it bursts,” said Vitale. He goes on to explain that, purslane only made it onto plates in the family restaurant in the past few years. They toss the rough-chopped leaves and the tenderest parts of the stem into salads, like the Panzanella on the menu for next week’s restaurant week. In the Panzanella, a mixture of purslane, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, olive oil and vinegar and onions are served with crusty bread.
The purslane’s flavor — Vitale finds it “almost peppery like arugula” — is not its chief selling point for the restaurateur, However, he likes the crisp, juicy texture.
So where do you find it?
This weed usually grows on the thin or bare spots in a lawn. Lawns that are not regularly or properly are susceptible to purslane infestation. When you see the suspected weed, check the leaves. Common purslane leaves are oval in shape and smooth. They are fleshy and thick, in some ways are comparable to the Jade houseplant. You should also check the leaves growth pattern. Purslane has succulent and reddish-brown stems that emerge directly from the thick taproot. The stem can grow up to 12″ long and radiate from the center of the plant.
Since the time of Hippocrates, purslane has been widely used in Europe for its cathartic (activates bowel evacuation), anthelmintic (anti-parasitic) and diuretic properties. In ancient Egypt, purslane was used to treat heart disease and heart failure. If purslane is not available in your area, you may use lingonberry, hemp, seabuckthorn, walnuts, flaxseed, perilla (a poisonous herb for cattle) and chia seeds as another source of omega 3.
At only 16 calories per 100 grams, wild purslane packs plenty of nutritional value without giving excess calories.
So the next time you are busy pulling weeds, take a closer look at what you’re throwing to the side. You might not want to “WEED” this robust power plant out!
Have you ever tried Purslane? Let us know!