Wherever paddy is cultivated it comes uninvited and stays until uprooted. Only to return. Though considered a weed it is a preferred leafy vegetable among the peasant community and farm folks. In States like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and others. In fact, peasants believe that consumption of its gives one instant energy.
We, Indians, have loved this succulent plant otherwise how does on rationalises the many names it has. Noni Sag in Bangla, Nonila Ghol and Motiloni in Gujarati. But it’s surprising to know that Assamese have seven names for it, Malayalam has eight names to describe it, and Kannada two, namely Doodagooni Soopu and Dudagorai.
As we urbanized ourselves and our food diversity got limited and we no more considered food as medicine we forgot Purslane (portulaca oleracea). From “noxious weed” to “superfood” the journey of this succulent has been very interesting. Purslane is widely distributed around the globe and is popular as a potherb in many areas of Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean region.
If you’re a plant lover you’re likely to compare Purslane with a miniature jade plant. Yes, it looks like that.
The moisture-rich leaves are cucumber-crisp and have a tart, almost lemony tang with a peppery kick. But the taste is not the only reason to eat. Purslane has recently been identified as the richest vegetable source of alpha-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid.
Scientific analysis of its chemical components has shown that this common weed has uncommon nutritional value, making it one of the potentially important foods for the future.
Health authorities highly recommend that we consume fish regularly to meet our bodies’ requirements of omega-3 fatty acids, as other sources are limited and do not supply nearly as much omega-3 fatty acids. Unlike fish oils with their high cholesterol and calorie content, purslane also provides an excellent source of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids without the cholesterol of fish oils, since it contains no cholesterol.
It is a rich source of potassium (494 mg/100 g) followed by magnesium (68 mg/100 g) and calcium (65 mg/100 g) and possesses the potential to be used as a vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acid. Consider this: while 100g of banana offers 358mg of potassium, coconut water 250mg in the case of Purslane it’s an astounding 494mg.
Purslane flourishes in numerous biogeographical locations worldwide and is highly adaptable to many adverse conditions such as drought, saline, and nutrient-deficient conditions.
It grows well in orchards, vineyards, crop fields, landscaped areas, gardens, roadsides, and other disturbed sites. In fact, once it has taken it’s very difficult to kill it. Remember why it’s called a weed.
According to Dr Artemis Simopoulos, president of the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health in Washington, who discovered Purslane while working at the National Institutes of Health that the plant has the highest level of Omega-3 fatty acids of any other green plant considers it as a “miracle’ plant.
Her research was first reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in the late 1980s, but it has taken time for nutrition awareness and food culture to catch up.
Purslane is very easy to grow, either from a cutting or seeds. While there are very many recipes to cook it, I take two branches of it along with the leaves, wash it, and chew it.
As you bite into it, it bursts into your mouth and has a crisp, juicy texture and a bit sour.
While Moringa has got its due—also called a miracle plant— it’s time we recognize the importance of Purslane.