Purslane is a low-growing, spreading plant that can be found growing in sunny locations throughout the United States. It's often considered an invasive weed; but, at the same time, some use it as a flavorful addition to salads, soups and a number of recipes. Because purslane is not often found at grocery stores, a purslane substitute may be needed to complete your culinary creation.
What is Purslane?
Purslane is a ground-cover-type annual plant that self-sows from its tiny seeds. The stems of the plant grow from 5 to 12 inches in length with plump, succulent-looking leaves attached. The leaves are edible, with a sweet, slightly lemony or peppery flavor. Very high in omega-3 content and a source of vitamins A, C and E, purslane is frequently found in a variety of dishes, both hot and cold, from Mexico, the Mediterranean, India, Middle East and Europe.
Purslane is often included as a salad ingredient, complimenting spicier greens and adding a subtle flavoring, ranging from sweet to tart and tangy. Watercress, parsley, spinach or arugula are common substitutes when purslane is unavailable.
In cooked recipes, purslane has a gummy texture and is used to thicken and flavor stews and soups. Purslane can also be cooked as a side dish by sauteing, steaming or boiling. When a cooking recipe calls for purslane, but none can be found, substitute spinach or okra in its place. The called-for amount is the same as if you added purslane.
The most flavorful and tenderness purslane leaves are those you purposefully grow, rather than the leaves harvested from plants growing wild. Purslane is an easy plant to grow, preferring well-draining soil and abundant sun. The plant should be removed as soon as flower buds are formed to control the invasive nature of the plant from its seeds. A single purslane plant can produce over 200,000 seeds that can lay dormant for five to 40 years. Purslane can be grown in containers, either inside or outdoors for year-round availability of the flavorful leaves.