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Purslane: Tangy Salad or Terrible Weed?

Weed-free garden
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Do a bit of online research on weeds these days and you might think you've landed in the supermarket produce aisle. Rather than information on how to combat garden pests, you will likely find an abundance of nutritional information and even recipes. Don't rid the garden of these weeds, is a common exhortation, harvest and eat them!

Purslane, a reportedly tangy tasting succulent, seems a good example. It is said that purslane was Mahatma Ghandi's favorite food. Yet even the famously lean Ghandi might have packed on the pounds if he'd tried to eat all the purslane his garden could grow. Just one purslane plant can create up to 240,000 seeds in a single growing season!

Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, grows around the world and throughout the United States and indeed, according to the Oxford Dictionary, it ranks right up there with asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes and tomatoes as a source of glutathione (an antioxidant), among other things.

Purslane is also an aggressively invasive garden weed!

Purslane is a successful weed because it is very adaptable, able to propagate in a variety of ways including seed, root division and from bits of stem. It's a prostrate plant that spreads quickly, creating a dense mat covering the ground. It's easy to pull after rain, but difficult to remove effectively without creating new plants. Purslane's abundant seeds sprout readily in summer when soil is warm and moist or when disturbed soil exposes buried dormant seeds to light.

Even if you successfully pull purslane, it will use the water and nutrients in its stems to create new seeds as it lies apparently dead on the compost heap.

Purslane certainly qualifies as a plant with many fine qualities, including being a rich source of vitamins A and C and yielding a higher amount of beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids than any other plant source. However, playing nice with fellow plants in the flowerbed is not in its nature. Those wishing to pursue purslane as a salad ingredient might be best advised to grow it in containers, and to harvest with care.

Of course, most gardeners would prefer to banish purslane and other unwelcome volunteers from their gardens. A program of weed prevention that includes a layer of mulch and a garden weed preventer such as Preen can help. Together, these stop many weeds when they're seeds, including such pesky and pernicious plants as purslane.

To learn more about weeds, weed prevention and for timely seasonal gardening tips and how-to videos, visit


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