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Remembering my childhood, I used to have many crickets and their best diet was purslane. I was curious and once I have tried, the taste was not bad, crunchy, and juicy. Purslane as vegetable has a unique taste; it is slightly sour, salty, and has an herb smell. My personal experience with the taste of purslane from childhood until now, brings me to the taste of my own tears and sweats; it seems familiar and healthy for us.

Once William Cobbett, a farmer and journalist in his book The English Gardener mentioned about purslane that it was “eaten by Frenchmen and pigs when they can get nothing else”. The scientific name of Purslane or pursley is Portulaca oleracea. It belongs to the family annual succulent flowering plant Portulacaceae. The meaning of oleracea is real vegetable or herbal. The leaves, stems, yellow flower buds and seed of purslane are all edible. Purslane is used in culinary and medicine.

Purslane is widely used as salad in some countries in Mediterranean (Spanish verdolaga salad), Northern Africa (in Egypt as cooked vegetable), Southern Europe (Greek andrakla salad), South East Asia (Indonesian krokot salad). Scientists suggested that the plant was already eaten by native Americans, who spread its seeds. Aboriginal Australians use the purslane seeds to make seedcakes.

The nutritional facts of raw purslane vegetable are about 3% carbohydrate, 2% protein, and 0.5% fat. It is good for diet. In a 100gram reference amount, raw purslane supplies 20 calories. Purslane is rich amount of the daily value (DV) of vitamin A 1320 IU, vitamin B complex up to 25%, vitamin C 25%, vitamin E 81% and moderate content of several dietary minerals calcium 7%, iron 15%, magnesium 19%, manganese 14%, phosphorus 6%, potassium 11%, zinc 2% DV respectively.

The water content of purslane is about 93%. Recently, it is reported that purslane is the richest vegetable source of alpha-linolenic acids, an essential omega-3 fatty acid. Purslane is also a natural source of melatonin as an insomnia or sleeping disorder treatment. It is found to have seven times higher the beta-carotene or orange-red pigment of carrots.

Purslane can also be used as purgative or laxative, cardiac tonic, emollient, muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic treatment that makes it important in herbal medicine. Purslane has also been used in the treatment of osteoporosis and psoriasis. Please consult with your medical doctor if you would like to use purslane in salad plate and natural medication because it contains oxalates. Oxalates is natural compound also found in spinach, chard, beet greens and rhubarb may cause problem for people susceptible to kidney stones

Potulaca oleracea or purslane is one of very few plants able to utilize both CAM and C4 photosynthesis pathways. CAM (crassulacean acid metabolism) is a carbon fixation pathway that evolved in some plants as an adaptation to arid conditions. Basically, stomata or pores in the leaves remain shut during the day to reduce evapotranspiration, but open at night to collect carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. Usually most plant require the stomata to be open during daytime and shut at night on C4 (four-carbon molecule) carbon fixation photosynthesis pathway.

As purslane has 2 pathways in photosynthesis, the plant can be used as a companion plant. Companion planting in gardening and agriculture is the planting of different crops in proximity for any of a number of different reasons for example pest control, pollination, providing habitat for beneficial insects, maximizing use of space, and to otherwise increase crop productivity. Companion planting is used by farmers and gardeners in both industrialized and developing countries since many centuries ago.

As a companion plant, purslane provides ground cover to create a humid microclimate for nearby plants and stabilizing ground moisture. Purslane deep roots bring up moisture and nutrients that those plants can use, and some including corn, will follow purslane roots down through harder soil that they cannot penetrate on their own. The role of purslane in this case as a companion plant is similar as pioneer species plant.

Purslane seed needs light to germinate so they must stay on the surface of the soil. If you are using purslane cuttings, lay the stems on the ground where you plan on growing purslane. Water it and they should produce roots in the soil within a few days.

The photo above was taken in Autumn. Purslane can be matched with aloe plants. Please contact us at www.burnabyredwigglers.com if you need purslane and aloe plants that grow well with the application of worm castings.

-Bintoro Gunadi