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Purslane belongs like Miner's lettuce to the botanical family of Portulaceae and can be used as a leaf vegetable. The wild form of purslane is native in the large region that stretches from Southwest Asia to the Western Himalaya and also in Greece. The Ancient Egypts already ate purslane as a vegetable and used it as a medicinal plant. In Europe it was cultivated in medieval times but with time fell into oblivion. Today only a small group of aficionados love purslane as a delicacy. It is cultivated rarely and the few imports that are available on European farmer's markets are grown on fields in the Netherlands, Belgium and France and sometimes in greenhouses. In some countries as the United States purslane is considered an invasive weed.


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Plant description

Purslane is an annual plant. It grows fast, in the beginning close to earth, later upright to a plant of 15 to 40 cm height. Its reddish stems bear thick, egg-shaped leafs without stalks. These leafs are green or yellow to golden depending on the variety *. During the flowering period between May and September small pastel yellow or orange flowers develop between the leafs.


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Properties of Purslane


Purslane is a vegetable with a high vitamin C content. 100 grams of purslane leafs contain about 22 milligrams of vitamin C. Other valuable contents of purslane are: vitamin B1, B2, B6 and provitamin A as well as essential nutrients, carbohydrates, protein and the minerals calcium, iron, sodium, phosphorus and oxalic acid.



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Cultivation, harvest and storage of Purslane

Purslane grown in fields needs only 3 to 4 weeks from sowing to harvest. In greenhouses no more than 20 days are needed. Because of its short growing period it is cultivated in quick succession. Therefore fresh purslane leafs can be harvested year-round. Between March and October purslane is available field-grown at farmer's markets. During the rest of the year the plants are grown in greenhouses, mostly in the Netherlands and Southern Europe.

When harvested, the leafs are cut with a small part of the stem. The stem grows back, which allows two to three cuts each season. As soon as the flowers open up, the leafs start to taste bitter.

Purslane can only be stored a short time. Even with optimal storage conditions of 0 to 1°C and a high humidity of 95 percent the leafs wilt after 3 to 5 days.


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Use of purslane in cuisine

Purslane leafs may be eaten raw as a salad or cooked as a vegetable. As a salad it goes well with cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. The slightly sour and nutty taste shows to its best advantage if cut in fine strips and used as a topping of fresh whole grain rye bread. If the leafs are cooked like a vegetable they are best blanched like spinach. The flower buds may be used instead of capers. Fried they are a delicious salad decoration.


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Purslane as a medicinal plant

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As mentioned before the Ancient Egypts used purslane as a medicinal plant. In Greece it is used until today. Infusions of purslane leafs are supposed to help with bladder and kidney ailments. It is also used as a remedy for constipation and heartburn and acts blood cleansing.

* Explanatory note: From the botanical point of view there are no purslane varieties. Only the seller of seeds distinguish between green purslane, yellow purslane and golden purslane.


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