Eat Your Weeds: Common Purslane Could be at Home on Your Dinner Table

July 23, 2008 07:00 PM
 
 
Pamela Henderson Smith, Farm Journal Crops & Issues Editor
 
Every summer I dread the appearance of common purslane in my garden. I'm always careful to dispose of it after pulling because it will reroot very easily if left in contact with the soil.
 
It's easy to find growing in crop conditions too. The annual plant forms a spreading mat up to 6 inches tall and 2 feet across. The stems are round, thick and succulent. The weed reminds me of a jade plant in apperance. Once established, it seems to thrive no matter the conditions. This week found big healthy specimens growing as tall as the soybeans in a very dry Arkansas field.
 
So imagine my surprise when I found common purslane being sold in a Paducah, Kentucky, farmer's market as a salad green. Quizzing the vendor, he opined that the weed (still my definition of the plant) is not a brisk seller, but then…it didn't cost him anything to grow the dang stuff either. He suggested tearing the leaves off and adding it to my salads or cooking it like spinach. No…I didn't buy any. I have plenty at home, thank you very much.
 
But finding it for sale did stimulate my interest in the pesky weed. Sure enough, a little research reveals that common purslane was introduced into the United States from Europe as early as the 17th century and was used as a potherb or salad herb. The seeds of common purslane have been observed at some archeological sites in North America, including the remnants of an Amerindian village in Oklahoma that is 5,000 years old.
 
University of Illinois weed specialist Aaron Hager says common purslane is generally not a problem weed species in agronomic row crops. "It can be more of a problem in certain vegetable and ornamental crops and landscape plantings,” says Hager. "It's usually more of a late-emerging species and it may crop up more often where dense crop canopy doesn't develop.”
 
In Michigan, carrot and other vegetable growers can cuss common purslane because it has been found to have multiple resistance to Photosystem II inhibitors, Ureas and amides.
 
 
For More Information
 

 
You can email Pamela Henderson Smith at psmith@farmjournal.com.
 
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This article appeared in the July issue of Farm Journal's Crop Technology Update eNewsletter. To sign up for a free subscription, click here.

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