Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a low-lying weed with fat stems and small thick leaves, which thrives in midsummer heat on neglected ground. It’s a European native that has spread throughout the world. One nickname for purslane is pigweed, and the 19th-century Englishman William Cobbett said it was suitable only for pigs and the French. But people in many countries enjoy its combination of tartness and soothing, mucilaginous smoothness, both raw in salads and added to meat and vegetable dishes during the last few minutes of cooking. There are now cultivated varieties with larger leaves shaded yellow and pink. Its qualities are similar to those of the cactus pad because both have adapted in similar ways to hot, dry habitats. Purslane is notable for its content of calcium, several vitamins, and an omega-3 fatty acid, linolenic acid.