Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

A mischievous weed, with Omega 3

Portulaca oleracea

With a warm glasshouse you can grow this succulent salad crop year round. Originally from India long ago this self seeding annual is now found wild, worldwide. Introduced to England in 1582 it was in Maine, in quantity, by 1605. And by 1819 it had spread across the entire Americas in such local abundance it became despised. “A mischievous weed that Frenchmen and pigs eat when they can get nothing else” was William Cobbett’s opinion.

Do not let Cobbett put you off. This is an excellent, easy to grow, salad with succulent refreshing leaves. Admittedly bland but with additional relish from being amazingly healthy eating. For Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, is an extremely nutritious, vitamin rich, ‘green’ (best eaten raw but can be cooked as spinach). It was even noted to benefit scurvy sufferers as early as1786. Now modern research has shown it’s also one of the richest plant sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. Important for our health these were mainly sourced from fish, particularly their fats, such as the famously ‘delicious’ cod liver oil. Thus particularly valuable for vegans and vegetarians as preferable in so many ways Purslane is now grown commercially to supply Omega 3 tablets. Though naturally it’s even better, and tastier, to have it fresh.

With warmth and successive batches Victorian gardeners produced crops throughout the year. This was helped by its habit of re-growing back from the roots when nipped off down to the lowest leaves. A rapid grower the tips, thin stems and leaves can be picked within weeks of sowing, and are then best picked often. Never let plants flower as the heads become tough and growth slows. If the yellow flowers are allowed to self seed, they will. everywhere, in any crack and fissure, but are easy to pull.

So simply sow the miniscule seeds on trays of sterile compost just sprinkling them over the surface then gently watering in. Keep warm in full light, with their compost moist. These hate waterlogging but endure drought well though becoming less tender eating. Almost immune to most pests and diseases these really are trouble free.

There are three long standing sorts of Purslane: Green, Yellow and Larger-leaved, other than these slight distinctions these are not dis-similar, sadly other sub-varieties including some ornamental versions have been lost over time.