I have been prompted by an article published in the ABC’s Gardening Australia magazine. When I read the options for using this plant in meals, and understood the nutrient content within the Portaluca oleracea plant, commonly known as Purslane and thought of as a weed, I felt compelled to grow it.
I do not have this weed in my garden and haven’t seen one in the neighbourhood so I asked members of Permaculture Tas and the Tasmanian Weed Group via their Facebook sites if someone could give me a plant. Then within hours I received an email newsletter from a Victorian gardener who extolled the virtues of Purslane. It seemed I was meant to focus on this weed. To my surprise, after a week I now own a couple of plants. Last Thursday in the Food Garden at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens we were given seedlings of Purslane to plant and when there were a couple left over, I was offered these . An unexpected windfall but obviously meant to be.
The Australian Natives Plants Society says ‘The species was well known to the early settlers who often used the juicy leaves in salads and, cooked, as a substitute for spinach. The seeds are also edible and are usually ground and baked into a damper.’ My plan is to grow my plants then create breads, omelettes, salads and other meals to share with my RTBG colleagues – with both my fellow volunteers and the paid staff with whom I work. Then they will be in a better position to explain to visitors how this plant can be accepted in their gardens as a useful plant and no longer a pesty weed.
Here is a recipe for potato and purslane salad you might like to try.
So what is all my fuss about for a plant that is sometimes referred to as Pigweed (not to be confused with Pigface – Carpobrotus rossii)? Healthline tells us ‘Purslane is a green, leafy vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked. It has a slightly sour or salty taste, similar to spinach and watercress. It can be used in many of the same ways as spinach and lettuce, such as in salads or sandwiches. It is also high in many nutrients. A 100 gram (3.5 oz) portion contains
- Vitamin A (from beta-carotene): 26% of the DV.
- Vitamin C: 35% of the DV.
- Magnesium: 17% of the DV.
- Manganese: 15% of the DV.
- Potassium: 14% of the DV.
- Iron: 11% of the DV.
- Calcium: 7% of the RDI.
- It also contains small amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, folate, copper and phosphorus.
You get all of these nutrients with only 16 calories! This makes it one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, calorie for calorie.’ In addition, Purslane is rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids and this is something we normally get from oily fish such as salmon.
This site notes: ‘While many Portulacas are native to countries other than Australia, Pigweed is one species that does herald from the land Down Under.’ ABC NEWS explains ‘Purslane is high in Omega 3 and has been the subject of much scientific research for this reason. This is a weed high in oxalic acid, so keep your quantities small.’ I understand the message – the quantity of purslane must be restrained. In the months to come when I start cooking with this plant, I will include the recipes in a blog so you can feel safe when you prepare your own meals with this plant.
If you want to know more about Portaluca oleracea the University of New England has produced a 12 page booklet which can be read here.