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In this next installment in the Wild Edibles series, let me introduce you to another health boosting weed. Purslane, like cleavers, commonly grows in backyards and gardens, and along sidewalks and pathways.
I found this wild edible by accident this afternoon, growing near my tomato plants. However, the plant announced itself in a peculiar way before that. I recently dreamed that I found purslane growing near my front deck. Recognizing its value, I felt thrilled by the discovery and in my dream, I told others about the health benefits of purslane.
A sense of deja vu came over me today, when I spied several plants growing in my raised vegetable bed, which happens to be near my front deck. I looked around to see if there was anyone to share this discovery with!
What is Purslane?
Although considered a weed by many, purslane is a member of the succulent family. The herb goes by other names, including duckweed, fatweed and pursley. Originally from India, the healing herb is now found across the US and in Asia, Central Europe and the Mediterranean. It typically appears in spring and thrives throughout the summer.
Purslane has smooth, reddish stems and leaves that cluster at stem joints and ends. Tiny yellow flowers can appear at any time during the growing season although the blooms only last for a few hours. I observed that the leaves of the plant close together as the sun sets.
Another identifying characteristic of purslane is the juice from the leaves. Tear a leaf in two. If the juice is clear, the plant is a purslane. If the juice is white, it’s a different plant that is not to be consumed.
Often removed from gardens as a weed, purslane has many healing properties, making it a plant worthy of attention.
Purslane is rich in essential nutrients such as vitamins A, B6, C and E, magnesium, manganese, calcium, potassium, iron, copper and phosphorus. It also offers disease fighting antioxidants and plant based omega-3 fatty acids.
Source of Beta-Carotene
Purslane provides beta-carotene, a pigment that the body converts to vitamin A. This potent antioxidant helps to maintain healthy skin, neurological function and excellent eyesight. Beta-carotene prevents chronic disease by protecting the body from the damage of free radicals. It also supports respiratory and pulmonary function.
Purslane’s high vitamin C content helps to neutralize free radicals as well, reducing inflammation throughout the body and lowering the risk for chronic disease. Vitamin C boosts the immune system, improves heart health and promotes glowing skin. In addition, vitamin C lowers the risk of death from stroke or heart disease and reduces levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Supports Bone Health
Purslane provides a great vegan source of omega-3 fatty acids. These improve heart health, reduce inflammation, improve mental health and support bone health.
Research suggests that consuming purslane helps to lower systolic blood pressure and improve glucose levels, making it a companion treatment for type 2 diabetes.
Treats Intestinal Disorders
Purslane’s organic compounds help to treat intestinal disorders, from diarrhea to intestinal bleeding to hemorrhoids.
The iron and copper in purslane helps to stimulate the production of red blood cells. These minerals boost circulation by delivering more oxygen to essential parts of the body. Iron and copper also increase healing within cells and organs and improves hair growth.
How to Enjoy Purslane
The leaves and stems of the purslane plant are edible. Add raw leaves and stems to salads or steam them lightly with other greens. Purslane can be added to soups, stews, sauces and smoothies.
The leaves and stems also make an excellent tea. Steep a small bunch of purslane in very hot water for 15 minutes. Sweeten with raw organic honey, if desired, or add a squeeze of lime juice.
Purslane is crunchy and slightly peppery, with a fresh, spinach like flavor. I created purslane tea this evening, to sip on as I wrote my blog post. The flavor is mild with a hint of that peppery taste.
No Longer Just a Weed
I’m glad I dreamed about purslane. The dream created a heightened sense of awareness about the plant, so that when I discovered it today, I recognized it.
I no longer see dandelions, cleavers, plantain, clover and purslane as weeds. Instead, I honor them as healing assets in my garden. They are herbs that I did not plant, and yet their value is just as great.
The purslane plants remain in my vegetable garden, for me to appreciate and harvest. I look forward to enjoying occasional cups of freshly prepared purslane tea and adding the leaves to salads.
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