In nature, there are many humble plants that are considered useless or even annoying weeds in normal times, but to those with the knowledge they might have valuable uses unknown to the layperson.
Some are edible, and there are many which can save the day in a survival situation if you have the knowledge to make use of them.
Purslane is a plant that is often considered an invasive and annoying weed in gardens around North America and throughout much of Europe and Asia.
Is purslane one of these plants? Can you eat purslane in a survival situation?
Yes, you can eat all parts of the purslane plant safely and it is very nutritious. However, it has a couple of highly dangerous imposters so positive identification is a must.
Purslane might well be the next hip superfood plant despite its common classification as a weed.
Purslane is absolutely packed with vitamins and minerals that a hard-working body needs, and it also has a nice tart tangy flavor that makes it a great addition to a salad or other meal.
You would do well to learn to identify purslane so you can make use of it wherever you happen to find it growing. This article will tell you more about eating it in a survival situation.
Where is Purslane Found?
Purslane, also known as common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) can be found in most corners of the world and has long been thought to have been spread mostly by human activity.
It can be found across much of central and southern Europe around the Mediterranean through the Middle East, and all across southern Asia. Some colonies are established in Africa.
Interestingly, the status of purslane in North America is contested.
There are multiple reported sightings of the plant here and there, but major concentrations seem to be lacking though there is historical evidence for the plant and indeed the Indians made use of it as a regular source of food.
Additionally, it will regularly make appearances, almost always unwanted, in gardens where it is rapidly removed by most.
That being said, there is an increasing movement to make use of this innocuous-looking weed as the nutrient-packed leafy vegetable that it is, so some small farms and many home gardeners are growing it in quantity.
Nutritional Facts about Purslane
Purslane has an impressive nutritional profile, macronutrients, and micronutrients alike.
It is roughly 2% protein and 3% carbohydrates with trace amounts of fat, and it has abundant vitamin E and vitamin C along with lesser amounts of all of the B complex vitamins including folate.
The only two vitamins that are conspicuously missing are vitamin K and vitamin A, though the latter is present again in trace amounts.
Also noteworthy is the presence of a surprising amount of omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that is difficult to get in quantity from most foods aside from fish.
The mineral content of purslane is equally impressive, with tons of magnesium, manganese, iron, potassium, and calcium with a little bit of phosphorus and zinc.
All in all, purslane can provide you with some calories but tons of vitamins and minerals, all of it needed to keep your body healthy and functioning at peak capacity.
Purslane can easily make up for a lack of vitamins in the rest of your diet, particularly among wild foraged or caught food, and this makes it indispensable to a survivor.
What Does Purslane taste like?
Purslane has a truly unique taste, often described as slightly salty and tangy or bitter, a bit like arugula, and depending on where it grows it might have a faintly lemon-like note.
Purslane is a fixture in various cuisines around the world, where it is used alternately as a cooked green or raw in a salad, and it is also processed into soups or used as a seasoning or garnish for many other dishes, meat, and vegetable alike.
Most people like purslane once they try it, and you can certainly do a whole lot worse than it when it comes to taste among wild plants.
Can You Eat Purslane Raw?
Yes, you can eat purslane raw and all parts of the plant are safe. However, like any raw vegetable, there is a chance of contracting foodborne illness from raw, wild purslane. More on that in a minute.
Can You Eat Purslane Leaves?
Yes, and the leaves of purslane are the best part of the plant to many. Tender, crisp, and flavorful, they are packed with nutrition and easy to harvest. Don’t miss out on them.
Can You Eat Purslane Stems and Stalks?
Yes. The stems and stalks of purslane also make for good eating, and in most plants you’ll find are tender and tasty.
Are There Risks Associated with Eating Purslane?
Purslane itself does not entail many risks outside of its moderate levels of oxalic acid which give it its tangy, slightly sour taste.
High intake levels of oxalic acid are associated with the formation of kidney stones, so definitely keep that in mind if you are prone to those awful things.
Oxalic acid is also associated, in extremely high doses, with kidney failure though you would have to eat a truly unbelievable amount of purslane over time for this to even remotely be a factor.
Other than that, the single biggest worry associated with eating wild purslane is food poisoning brought on by germs on or in the plant.
There are several such common germs that can cause food poisoning, with one of the most frequent being listeria.
Whether caused by that (listeriosis) or some other microorganism, food poisoning usually results in abdominal pain nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and occasionally fever though complications are far from unheard of.
This is certainly a rough time under normal circumstances, but in a survival situation, it could prove deadly by a combination of dehydration or just making you incapable of taking care of the things you need to do in order to keep living.
You’re always advised to wash purslane you find at the minimum, if you are able, and cooking it to eliminate these germs is always a good idea.
Purslane responds very well to being steamed or gently boiled, so you won’t have to worry about giving up too much nutrition in the bargain.
Caution: Purslane has Poisonous Imitators
Purslane, like most beneficial wild plants, unfortunately has several toxic look-alikes that can spell disaster for the unwary or uneducated.
One of the most common, and most dangerous, purslane look-alikes is prostrate spurge, which despite its funny name is a similar low-growing plant.
You won’t think it is very funny after a run-in with this hellish greenery: spurge has a milky sap that can produce severe inflammation and damage to mucous membranes, temporary blindness, and a painful rash on exposed skin. It is also known as carcinogenic!
This is a plant you never want to run into, and picking it for eating because you mistook it for purslane could be a truly terrible error.
As always, make it a point to learn the nuances of any beneficial plant you are going to depend on in a survival situation. A case of mistaken identity might have deadly consequences!
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.