Often considered a weed, discussions in gardening circles about the herb purslane usually revolve around methods for its eradication. We think this is a crying shame! Purslane’s succulent-like leaves are not only nutritious, they’re also tasty, with a flavor similar to spinach with a slight lemony tang. Because of its flavor profile, this herb is commonly used in Mediterranean, Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisines. Its weed-like attributes, such as requiring little attention and thriving in harsh climates with only two-month growing seasons, actually makes this plant a great one for beginner gardeners. If you do decide to invite this herb into your garden, keep a diligent eye on its flower development: if it’s allowed to seed, it’ll very likely bully its way into other sections of your herbaceous ‘hood.
Garden purslane is a larger, domesticated varietal that can found planted in many a European garden. The leaves of this varietal possess the same lemony tang as the more commonly consumed wild purslane. However, the Garden variety’s leaves are almost four times the size of the wild variety, giving you more bang for your buck. This variety also grows quite tall (about 18″) instead of across the ground like the wild types, which not only means more tasty leaves but also less fuss when it comes to harvesting and less dirt to clean off before you can enjoy these gorgeous little greens.
Seed Depth: 1/4–1/2″
Space Between Plants: 6–12″
Space Between Rows: 16–18″
Germination Soil Temperature: 75–90°F
Days for Germination: 7–10
Sow Indoors: 6 to 8 weeks before average last frost date.
Sow Outdoors: Following average last frost date.
Vegetative: Will grow well from cuttings. Simply cut off pieces of this herb and strip any leaves growing close to the bottom. Place in soil and keep moist. That’s it!
While this herb will grow in most climates, it doesn’t particularly care for cold weather, so don’t plant outdoors until the risk of frost has passed and temperatures are consistently at 75°F or higher. Purlsane furthermore doesn’t care for high altitudes or extremely dry weather, so don’t expect it to grow well without some extra care if you live in mountainous regions.
Natural: Full sun.
Artificial: Will grow using most artificial light sources but will grow best under an HID lamp. Keep under lights for a minimum of 8 hours a day; however, more is preferred. Lights should be kept a few feet away from the top of plants to keep them from burning.
Soil: This plant is not particular about its soil type but will do best in soil that is not overly moist. A pH of 6.0 to 8.0 will allow purslane to thrive.
Soilless: Seeds will germinate in most soilless mixes but will do best in those containing peat and vermiculite.
Hydroponics: Will thrive in hydroponic systems.
Aeroponics: Will thrive in aeroponic systems.
Water: Young plants will require moderate levels of water; however, this plant is highly drought tolerant and will not require much irrigation once it has matured.
Pruning: Remove flower heads as they appear to keep this plant from self seeding and taking over your garden. If your plant becomes a bit overzealous, you might also want to consider digging some up. Be sure to remove the entire tap root if thinning out your crop.
Rotation: Makes a great cover crop for fields that are used to grow corn.
Companions: Grows well with corn, basil, cabbage, beets, carrots, and various grains.
Harvest: To harvest, pull off stems and/or pick the leaves individually. The entire plant may also be harvested by digging down in the soil and removing the tap root. The tips of the leaves will be the most tender, so if you are not in need of a lot of the herb, pinch these off to add to your dish!
Storage: The leaves will keep in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks. The water-rich leaves will help keep them from wilting.
Fun Fact: Perhaps one of the most likely culprits for this plant’s ability to spread like wildfire is the number of seeds it produces. Each plant can produce up to 200,000 seeds in one season. That’s a lot of babies for one little herb!
Preserve: As this plant contains a good deal of water, it’s not commonly dried but does well when pickled. Leaves may be frozen but can develop a grainy texture.
Prepare: Add leaves fresh to salads or as a garnish or boil, bake, stir-fry, or steam! To pickle, fill a jar with the cleaned and trimmed leaves and fill with some garlic and vinegar. Top off your jar with a clean top and leave in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Some sources have also suggested blending the leaves with pine nuts or walnuts to make a tangy pesto.
Nutritional: This little herb packs a serious nutritional punch as it’s extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin(s) including A, C, E, and B. It also contains multiple essential minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium.
Medicinal: Because of its high content of omega-3s, purslane can contribute to improved heart health and a possible reduction in the risk of alzheimers, arthritis, and asthma. Omega-3s have also been linked to the reduction and/or mitigation of certain mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Check out this extensive list of Perfect Purslane Pairings for some ideas on how to eat this nutritious herb!