Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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purslane a name of wide and loose application, refers chiefly to Portulaca oleracea, a plant which originated in the Near East or C. Asia and has been eaten in those regions for more than 2,000 years. The well-known 19th-century horticultural writer Loudon wrongly thought that the plant originated in Latin America, and the hare which he, or possibly an earlier source which he failed to cite, thus set running may occasionally be seen scampering across the pages of more recent works.

Purslane was cultivated and eaten in ancient Egypt, and in classical Greece and Rome. The Romans called it portulaca, said to be the origin of the early French porcelaine, from which the English name is derived.