08/16/2010 11:48 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Purslane: Gandhi's Favorite Food May Be a Weed in Your Yard

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea, P. sativa) is a member of the Portulacaceae Family and also known as wild portulaca and verdolaga. It is thought that the genus name, Portulaca is from the Latin porto and laca meaning "milk carrier" in reference to its milky sap. The species name, oleracea is Latin, meaning "potherb."

Native to Persia, Africa and India, purslane was introduced into Europe by Arabs in the 15th century as a salad herb, and has spread into the United States and Central and South America. It is found in gardens and vacant area in damp to dry soil.

Purslane is an annual, low growing fleshy herb, up to eight inches with prostrate reddish stems. The leaves are succulent, smooth, paddle shaped and about a half inch to an inch long and arranged alternately. Tiny yellow flowers about 3/16 of an inch open when the sun shines, followed by tiny dark colored seeds.

Purslane is reported to have been one of Mahatma Gandhi's favorite foods and also consumed by Thoreau while residing at Walden Pond. It is pleasant, cool, and moist, with a sour flavor that can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Use purslanes in salads, pickles, stir fry dishes and soups as a cooling summer food. Bake purslane shoots with breadcrumbs as a casserole. It can be used in place of okra in recipes. Purslane is used in Creole cooking and in the mideastern salad, fattoush. The dried seeds can be ground and added to flour. I've noticed our local farmer's market selling this fine herb to introduce people to purslane's vegetable potential.


Brigitte Mars, a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild, is a nutritional consultant who has been working with Natural Medicine for over forty years. She teaches Herbal Medicine at Naropa University, Boulder College of Massage, and Bauman Holistic College of Nutrition and has a private practice. Brigitte is the author of twelve books, including The Sexual Herbal, The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine, Beauty by Nature, Addiction Free Naturally, Healing Herbal Teas, and Rawsome!. Visit here for more healthy living articles, raw food recipes, videos, workshops, books, and more at
Check out her international model yogini daughter, Rainbeau at