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Herb of the Week-Purslane

Common names

Garden or Green Purslane
Purslane (botanical name, Portulaca oleracea) is an annually growing plant that belongs to the family Portulacaceae. This herb is also known by other names, such as pigweed, little hogweed, verdolaga and pusley, and grows up to a height of 15 cm to 30 cm. The plant has sprawling succulent stems that have a shade of pink. It produces thick, succulent leaves that grows in bunches and have a vivid green color and are spatulate. The plant produces a single or clusters of two or three small yellow flowers in the later part of summer. Flowers of purslane bloom only for a brief period.

For several centuries, people in India as well as the Middle East have consumed the fresh herb, especially its leaves. This plant has been adopted from the wild variety, which was introduced into Europe during the Middle Ages and subsequently several assortment of the plant were developed from it. The most prominent among them are the green and golden purslane. It is believed that the cultivation of garden variety of purslane started in England quite late - around the second half of the 16th century.

Purslane possesses a somewhat bitter flavor and can be consumed raw, boiled or even pickled. In the Middle East culinary, the cooked plant is added to a customary salad based on bread - known as ‘fattoush’. In France, equal parts of fresh purslane and sorrel were used to prepare the traditional classic soup called ‘bonne femme’. In fact, even in Elizabethan England, purslane was a very popular salad herb. The bulky stems of the older purslane plants were salted and pickled in vinegar for use during winter. However, purslane gradually lost its popularity by the end of the 18th century and was hardly used by people. In the present times, purslane is seldom eaten in England, while a number of recipes recommend that the young and tender stems of the plants be steamed in the same way as is done with asparagus.

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