Common Purslane, scientifically known as Portulaca oleracea is an annual succulent. It is also called verdolaga, red root, or parsley. Common Purslane has a smooth reddish stem. The leaves are smooth, thick, paddle-shaped and are clustered at the stem joints and ends. The flowers are yellow and have five petals. Seeds are formed in a tiny pod that opens when the seeds mature. The plant has a taproot with fibrous secondary roots.
Purslane leaves are slightly sour and salty taste and can be eaten raw. It is usually used in salads. The flower buds and stem are also edible. Purslane has a mucilaginous quality and hence suitable for soups and stew.
As a companion plant, purslane creates a humid microclimate for nearby plants and stabilises ground moisture. The deep roots help bring up moisture and nutrients that other plants cannot use otherwise, and helps plants penetrate the roots through the hard soil.
The Omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid in Purslane is more than any other leafy vegetable. Shortage of Omega-3 fatty acid is linked to heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Purslane is high in Vitamin A, a powerful natural antioxidant and vital vitamin for vision. It also helps maintain healthy skin and protects from lung and oral cavity cancers. Purslane is an excellent source of Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Vitamin B-complex, and dietary minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
There are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments in purslane, the reddish beta-cyanine, and the yellow beta-xanthine antioxidants, that have antimutagenic properties.