English: Purslane, pigweed, moss roseSpanish: VerdolagaFamily: PortulacaceaeGenus & species: Portulaca oleraceaePurslane, known in Spanish as verdolaga, is a low-growing perennial succulent with …
English: Purslane, pigweed, moss rose
Genus & species: Portulaca oleraceae
Purslane, known in Spanish as verdolaga, is a low-growing perennial succulent with five-petaled yellow flowers. It originated in the Old World (Africa, Middle East) and is believed to have made its way somehow to North America long before Columbus. It is one of those plants that lawn-loving suburban Americans love to pour poison on.
Ironically, verdolaga is one of the most nutritious wild plants that can be found and contains more of the popular omega-3 essential fatty acids than any other leafy plant. It is also high in vitamin C. Purslane's leaves and stems can be eaten as a salad green, cooked in soups and stews or sautéed with bacon, which is the most common way to prepare verdolagas here in Northern New Mexico. The taste of verdolaga can be a little peppery and is salty and sour - the sourness due to the presence of oxalic acid. Plants with oxalic acid should be avoided by people with calcium oxalate kidney stones.
In good years (with wet winter and spring), one can find large stands of this fine plant growing throughout the Taos area, especially in fields that have been disturbed in recent years by tractors or excavation.
Purslane is also a medicinal plant. Preliminary research has found that it can be very effective for a painful inflammatory condition of the mouth called oral lichen planus. Additional research suggests that it may help for age-related memory loss and may be useful in some cancers. It has been used topically (on the skin) for headaches and orally for toothaches. Purslane is also a demulcent, which means that it has a slippery soothing texture that is beneficial for diarrhea, sore throats and bee stings. All in all, purslane is a pretty amazing little herb that most people don't know about or are busy trying to remove from their lawns.
Consult your health care practitioner about the use of herbs or supplements, especially if you are pregnant, taking prescription medication or administering herbs to children.
Rob Hawley is co-owner of Taos Herb Company. For information, call (575) 758-1991 or go to taosherb.com.
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