If you’re a gardener, this ISN’T the bane of your existence. It’s actually your best friend. If it’s in your garden, especially around peppers, tomatoes, and corn, keep it there. It’s called purslane.
You might’ve heard that it was called pigweed, but if you think about it, you were also told that lamb’s quarters were called pigweed, amaranth (which actually is pigweed) was called pigweed, broadleaf plantain was called pigweed, wild hibiscus was called pigweed, heck you might’ve even been someone who grew up calling clover pigweed. Bottom line is, if someone tells you a weed is pigweed, they’re pretty much just saying they don’t know what it is, but they want to sound knowledgeable. Purslane breaks up hard soil, making it easier for crops to grow their roots. It also provides ground cover and stabilizes soil moisture, meaning it keeps the “climate” around your crops healthy.
As if that’s not enough, it also pulls nutrients and water up that your crops can’t reach…and then shares them with your crops. Yeah, that’s right. This weed is better than pretty much every person you know. I think we could learn a lot from this weed. Christ tells us to give water to those who ask us for it, to love unconditionally and to help who we can, where we can, when we’re there. These things are precisely what purslane does! It’s one of God’s examples to us, of how we should be treating each other. Some plants fight for space with plants around them or even directly kill the plants around them, and they seem to be the plants that represent humanity. But we were meant to be like purslane. We were meant to coexist with one another, even those different from us, and help everyone regardless of what they think of us. We were designed to do our best to be as helpful as possible, even when the world sees us as weeds and just wants to throw us out.
And, if you absolutely must pull purslane out of your garden despite it’s selfless nature and good looks, you can always wash it up and throw the edible “weed” in your salad or sauté. The leaves, stems, and flowers can all be eaten. With generous amounts of vitamins A, B, C, and E, magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, betalain alkaloid pigments (antioxidants believed to help prevent cancer), lithium (used to treat depression), and more Omega-3 than any other vegetable in the world, this tangy-sweet vegetable is not only something you can eat, it’s something you SHOULD eat.
You won’t have much trouble finding this miracle plant. Just go outside and look around on the ground for a bit. No matter where you live, if it’s mid-June or later, you’re sure to find it.
A warning, however: Make sure it’s purslane and not spurge. Check it against pictures of purslane on Google and make sure it has no sap when broken. If it has sap (looks like milk) when broken, it’s spurge, a highly toxic weed that sucks and IS the bane of your existence. Here are a few photos of purslane to help you identify it, but always double check anyway when you’re about to eat a “weed”!
Purslane is eaten with meals like the actual vegetable that it is in places like Turkey, India (where it supposedly originated from), Greece, Mexico, and more. It was one of Gandhi’s favorite foods, perhaps thanks to it’s antidepressant properties. People say it’s taste is hard to describe, but it’s really not. It tastes like an Italian sweet pepper with a bit of tanginess and zest. It will taste more tangy the earlier in the day you pick it. Due to the way it survives dry spells by photosynthesizing, it will also taste more tangy if you pick it during a drought.
If you want to get a look at it’s flowers, you’re going to have to be an earlybird. I have found through trial and error that they literally only open at around 9:40 AM. Besides that, it can be impossible to tell the plants even have flowers at all because they’re closed the whole day.
Once again, please refer back to the images in this post as well as doing more Googling on purslane if you are going to try eating wild purslane. There are many plants you may mistake for it, such as spurge (which is poisonous). The easiest way to tell the difference between purslane and spurge is to break it. If it’s oozing white milk, it’s spurge and you should get rid of it — but don’t touch that milk! It’s highly toxic and can cause serious skin irritation. If you accidentally get a little bit of it on yourself, you should be fine if you wash your hands right away, but a few people have reported actually developing dermatitis as a result of getting spurge sap on their hands.
There are other plants, I’ve found, that can be mistaken for purslane. Spurge is the most dangerous one, but I can’t figure out what the other one is called so I don’t know whether it’s edible or not. That’s why you need to really get it in your head and double-check before eating it. But should you decide to eat it, rest assured the only thing you’re growing in your garden that rivals it’s health benefits is kale. As I’m sure you’re well aware, kale is pretty much the healthiest vegetable in the world, seconded by purslane. I guess we could give purslane the title of healthiest weed in America (because most other countries consider it an herb or vegetable, not a weed).
If you decide to deliberately grow purslane, it needs plenty of sunlight and can thrive in both droughts and wet seasons. Basically, it needs no care whatsoever as long as it’s not too shaded.
You can also buy cultivated purslane which has flowers in many different colors (there are apparently 40 different kinds you can get), rather than just yellow. This purslane is used as decoration — I’m not sure if it’s edible, though it probably is.
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Did I fail to mention something very important about purslane? Add your knowledge in a comment below!