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Purslane

A focus on purslane

Today, we’re going to discuss purslane, an underappreciated, fragrant herb that has a lot to offer in the kitchen. Actually, “purslane” refers to a whole class of plants. The most well-known kind is called Oleracea, or “porcelain grass.” This purslane is edible, so it can represent a resource from a gastronomic point of view. It has small yellow flowers, thick leaves, and a fleshy stem.

The second most famous variety is also called hemlock, which is very poisonous. Fortunately, it is easily distinguished from other types thanks to its offensive odour, white roots, and noticeably lighter stem.

While some of the other purslane varieties can have decorative uses, their value lies only in their botanical qualities.

The flavour of this aromatic plant

You can consume nearly every part of the edible purslane, or oleracea, including the stems, buds, and leaves. But the leaves are the ones with the widest range of applications and the best consistency, leaving the palate feeling pleasantly surprised. The taste is distinct because it combines salty and sour tones that are vaguely evocative of lemon. Although purslane can have an “astringent” taste, its potent properties make it a valuable tool in culinary applications. This fragrant herb pairs well with a variety of foods, popping up even in the most intricate dishes.

Purslane can be eaten raw, and therefore, it can be used in salads. However, it is also excellent when cooked, perhaps steamed or pan-fried with a drizzle of oil. From this point of view, it has points in common with small-leafed lettuces, such as lamb’s lettuce, or other aromatic herbs, such as basil.

Purslane in the kitchen. Porcelain herbs and their recipes

The flavour and texture of edible purslane, or porcelain herb if you prefer, give it a certain versatility. This is demonstrated by some of the recipes that I have published on the site, which I have listed below:

Omelette roll with purslane. A rustic and truly tasty dish with excellent nutritional properties. A tasty, visually striking omelette that is rolled to maintain its shape.

Pasta with purslane pesto. In this case, purslane takes the place of basil, creating an extremely tasty sauce. The recipe is similar to that of the classic pesto because it also uses the usual pine nuts, Parmesan, oil, etc.

Salad with melon and purslane. It is a splendid example of how Purslane can excel even in its raw state. This recipe also demonstrates its ability to “resist” the presence of highly characterised ingredients, such as melon.

Omelette with purslane and chickpea flour. An extremely rustic omelette whose crown jewel is the purslane.

Lasagna with wild herbs. This is a peculiar variant of lasagna, as it is made with many wild herbs. The dish boldly conveys flavours of acidity and saltiness, which are attributed to the well-emerging purslane.

Fattoush. We close with an ethnic dish—Lebanese cuisine, to be precise. A generous slice of Arabic bread is the bed for an extremely complex salad, which expresses varied flavours between sour and salty. Purslane adds depth and brilliance to the salad while showcasing its finest organoleptic and scenic qualities.

Nutritional properties and contraindications

Not only is purslane pleasant and adaptable, but it’s also a good source of nutrients. As a member of the “succulent plants” family, it has an abundance of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Either way, purslane has fewer calories per serving—in fact, less than the typical vegetable. To be precise, it stands at 20 kcal per 100 grammes.

For the rest, a great variety of vitamins is appreciated, including vitamin C, vitamin E (which acts as an antioxidant), and vitamin A, which benefits the skin and eyesight. Purslane also does well with mineral salts, given the quantities of magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron. These substances are good for energy metabolism, blood pressure, bones, and regulating the amount of oxygen in the blood itself.

And what about contraindications? It’s actually strange to talk about contraindications for such a beneficial vegetable, yet there are a few. The reference is to those who suffer from kidney stones or tend to develop them more than others. The reason for this lies in oxalic acid, particularly present in purslane.

Those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome should also pay maximum attention, given the high quantities of fibre that the plant contains. This is a contraindication that characterises almost all vegetables.

How is purslane grown?

Growing purslane in a garden or in pots is a fairly simple process. Regarding the first option, it is advisable to select sunny locations because the plant loves heat. But in order to protect it from freezing winds, which could kill the plant, it needs to be sheltered throughout the winter. Watering shouldn’t be frequent; in the summer, it should be done every three days, while during the winter, it should be done once a week.

Fertilisation should occur every two weeks from the month of May through September. It is beneficial to hydrate the soil before incorporating the fertiliser.

These precautions also apply to pot purslane. In this case, it is advisable to move the plant to a sheltered place during the cold months. It is also useful to opt for a slow-release fertiliser, as this “version” of purslane is a little more demanding than the garden one, given the shallow depth of the soil.