It is considered a long-forgotten wild plant, but there are many reasons why purslane should end up on the plate more often again. The fleshy herb grows regionally, scores with its unique aroma and is also very healthy. That’s why purslane is a real insider tip!
Purslane (also called vegetable or summer purslane) has been used as a vegetable for centuries. Nowadays, however, it has been somewhat forgotten – wrongly so, because the plant grows uncomplicatedly in the mild climate. This is probably one of the reasons why purslane is notorious as a weed.
At a glance:
Product information: What is purslane?
Purslane (Purslane oleracea) is a succulent plant. The variety bred for cultivation grows to about 40 centimeters in height. Pairs of fleshy, lush green leaves are attached to a reddish stem. They can be eaten raw and have a fine, sour-nutty taste. If the purslane is not harvested, yellow flowers appear at the top of the plant and later seed pods with black seeds.
Purslane: risk of confusion with close relatives
There is a risk of confusion, especially with an ornamental plant species that has similarly fleshy leaves. The purslane (Portulaca grandiflora) decorates the garden as a low ground cover in summer with bright yellow, orange, red or purple flowers. The ornamental purslane is not suitable for eating.
If the wild vegetables are not bought at the vegetable stand, only self-grown purslane should be consumed. Collecting from the wild without complete heating also carries the risk of infection with dog or fox tapeworm.
Purslane and Postelein: what’s the difference?
The summer purslane should not be confused with the postelein (Claytonia perfoliata). The latter is sold as “winter purslane”, “plate herb” or “Cuba spinach”. However, it is only remotely related to the vegetable purslane. Postelein is much more cold-resistant than purslane. It is therefore grown in the unheated greenhouse during the winter months and sometimes offered at the weekly market or in organic boxes.
Purslane: Wild vegetables are so healthy
Purslane has been considered a medicinal plant for centuries. Various health-promoting properties are attributed to the wild plant: the fleshy herb has an antibacterial, cleansing and diuretic effect. In the Middle Ages, purslane was eaten against scurvy, it is said to help against inflammation in the mouth, insect bites and skin ulcers.
In fact, purslane is very healthy because, in addition to its sour aroma, the wild vegetable provides important vitamins and minerals, including:
In addition, purslane is rich in secondary plant substances, including flavonoids, which have an antioxidant effect. These antioxidants scavenge free radicals that occur during metabolic processes in the body. They act as cell protection and thus against cell aging and degeneration. They also protect against inflammatory processes.
Vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids
One ingredient in purslane stands out in particular: omega-3 fatty acids. These are commonly known primarily from sea fish, vegetable oils and nuts. Purslane has by far the highest content of omega-3 fatty acids among green leafy vegetables. With 400 milligrams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) per 100 grams of fresh weight, it outperforms spinach fivefold and lettuce even twentyfold.
Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important for a healthy brain and heart, they can help prevent rheumatic diseases and cancer. A study also showed that purslane has a positive effect on cholesterol levels in obese adolescents.
Attention: Very high nitrate content in purslane
However, one should bear in mind that purslane with 615 milligrams per 100 grams is a very has high nitrate levels. Nitrate is a nitrogen compound that bacteria can convert to nitrite if food is improperly stored or reheated. Nitrite is involved in the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. Therefore, it is better to only eat fresh purslane and not in large quantities. For this reason – and because of the diuretic effect – pregnant women should also be careful when consuming purslane.
Grow your own purslane in the garden or on the balcony
Unfortunately, you rarely see the summer purslane at the vegetable stand. However, that shouldn’t stop anyone from using the crunchy leaf rosettes in the home kitchen. Practically speaking, the quite robust plants can be grown on the balcony or in your own garden without too much effort and harvested again and again once it has grown.
Purslane needs a reasonably nutrient-rich soil, it grows just as well in the bed as in larger boxes and pots. The plant prefers a sunny location, rather loose, sandy soil and should be watered regularly.
The small, black seeds can be planted in sheltered locations from March, outdoors from May. If the weather cooperates, the first leaves can be harvested about four weeks after sowing. To do this, simply cut off or snap off the top rosettes of leaves. From the lateral axes of the leaves lying further down, the plant continues to grow tirelessly throughout the summer, fresh purslane can be harvested little by little. And you should, too, because as the leaves age, they can take on a bitter taste.
Preparing purslane: This is how wild vegetables can be used in the kitchen
Purslane is particularly popular when it is fresh. Boiling or steaming is hardly recommended because of the heat-sensitive vitamins, and it is also not suitable for freezing or drying. It can be pickled in vinegar to preserve it – but with this method of preparation it loses its characteristic taste.
Purslane is quite easy to prepare, many parts of the plant are edible and aromatic. You can even use the closed flower buds – as false capers they give salads a new, special kick.
Recipe ideas with purslane:
In the salad: It gives leafy salads structure and bite, it takes the heaviness out of potato salad – and because of the fleshy succulent leaves, it doesn’t collapse as easily as other salads. The dressing should be light and unobtrusive so that the delicate aroma of purslane is not overpowered. A real omega-3 bomb is purslane together with walnuts.
Raw side dish: The sour and slightly salty character of purslane goes well with mild cheeses and also goes well with eggs and poultry.
On the bread: As an alternative to chives, finely chopped purslane over quark, butter or cream cheese can be used.
In Dips oder Dressing: Whether alone or combined with dill, parsley and peppermint, coarsely chopped purslane makes a delicious salad dressing or ingredient for chopped vegetables to nibble on.
In green smoothies: Due to its high water content, purslane is easy to process in a blender. Its vitamin C content, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids are an enrichment for the raw food from the jar.
Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by www.lifeline.de.
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