Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Purslane - free food from your garden

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
This hardy, drought resistant plant grows in summer. It has fleshy leaves, red/brown stems and yellow flowers.
Purslane is an annual plant that self seeds prolifically. It tolerates really dry conditions, so is really sustainable and should be encouraged.
It has medicinal benefits, is highly nutritious and can be used as a food in several ways.
 Purslane is rich in omega 3 fatty acid and as such is beneficial as an anti-inflammatory, helps to balance cholesterol ratios, helps improve bone density, helps prevent macular degeneration of the eye, helps prevent depression and may help with insulin resistance. Cod liver oil will do the same if taken regularly.
Purslane is a vegetarian option to fish oil, and is free. However it would have to be included in the diet regularly and preferably raw or stir fried. In order for you to have an all year round supply, harvest it in summer and freeze as much as you can.
Another significant benefit from purslane is in it's anti-oxidant and free radical scavenging activity. The flowering plant contains betalain alkaloids which help protect against cancer and other serious inflammatory diseases.
Finally purslane, due to it's slightly mucilaginous quality, is a good prebiotic.
The best way to get the health benefits from purslane is as a food.


Purslane linguini
Purslane is not overpoweringly tasty, but has a fairly neutral flavour. It can be likened to waterblommetjie in that regard. As such it blends in with any dish and any flavour. It can be used in stew, stir fry, salad and soup. It can also be served as a vegetable on its own. Combine it with your favourite vegetables and be inventive. To get maximum medicinal as well as nutritional value, use it generously in salads. Wash it well and cut the thickest stalks off. Use the flowering plant whenever possible. It also makes a delicious pickle. (I always use apple cider vinegar for my pickling.)
You can even add it to your dog's food for extra nutrition.
Purslane contains high levels of vitamin C and B as well as potassium, magnesium and nitrate.
So when you are feeling the pinch and need food that is free and highly nutritious, look no further than your back yard or your pavement.