Portulaca oleracea, better known as common purslane or pigweed, is a weed that produces yellow flowers and has succulent stems and leaves with a mucilaginous texture. It looks practically identical to the more popular decorative variety Portulaca grandiflora (moss rose), which is cultivated for its wonderful variety of coloured flowers, ranging from white through to pink, red, yellow and shades of orange — all on the one plant. For that burst of colour in the garden, few other plant varieties can give the same effect.
Try growing some in a hanging basket.
Portulaca is an annual plant that’s very easy to grow and makes an excellent groundcover around garden borders. It also acts as a living mulch around vegies and trees. It requires very little water, will grow in any soil in any climate and there is hardly an insect that can cause enough damage to worry about.
Portulaca oleracea, the wild or common purslane, contains an extraordinary amount of omega-3, which is more usually sourced through fish, flaxseed and algae. In fact, it has more omega-3 than any other leafy land vegetable and is also high in vitamins A, B and C with lots of dietary minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese.
It could already be growing wild in your garden; if not, why not plant it for eating? It has a slightly salty, lemony taste and can be steamed like spinach, stirfried or eaten fresh in a salad to complement your favourite seafood dish.
Interestingly it is a bushfood for Aborigines, who eat the flowers and leaves and make seed cakes from the seeds, which are similar in taste to flaxseeds, also high in omega-3s.
As a cooked green, like spinach
Raw in salads or on sandwiches
In soups and stews
Juiced with vegies or fruit
Nutrients per 100g
Folate 12mcg 3% RDANiacin 0.480mg 3% RDAPantothenic acid 0.036mg 1% RDAPyridoxine 0.073mg 5.5% RDARiboflavin 0.112mg 8.5% RDAThiamin 0.047mg 4% RDAVitamin A 1320iu 44% RDAVitamin C 21mg 35% RDA
Pests and diseases
Downy mildew: Pale green blotches begin to appear on the surface of the leaves, turning milky white when allowed to develop.
Control by spraying plants with Bordeaux mixture: 2 applications a fortnight apart should control the disease.
Leaf mining sawfly: The larvae of this insect get into the leaves of the plant where they safely eat away at the insides until they reach their adult stage. Silvery lines appear on the surface with decayed leaf edges a sign of attack by this insect.
Control by discarding damaged plants and apply fortnightly sprays of homemade white oil.
Stinging nettle is a very familiar perennial flowering plant that’s native to Europe, Asia and North America and is now quite common in Australia. There are a few varieties that grow wild across our country, particularly Urtica urens, commonly known as small nettle, which has been listed as a mildly noxious weed in WA.
However, residents of states other than WA can grow nettle in the garden to take advantage of its amazing herbal and medicinal properties. Keep in mind, too, that it can be easily controlled when harvested on a regular basis.
Stinging nettle, as you probably have already guessed, stings. It has lots of stinging hairs which detach from the plant when touched, releasing a cocktail of irritants that are injected into the body, causing a reaction where contact has been made with the skin.
Even though the skin irritation is at first quite painful, causing redness and itching, the body is then stimulated to move blood to the affected area to give warmth and relief, which is great for those who suffer from arthritis and rheumatism.
For centuries, in various cultures around the world it was the practice to brush stinging nettle across arthritic areas to help stimulate blood flow. This method of relief is even practised today in some countries where natural remedies are the major medicine.
Stinging nettle is rich in vitamins A, C, D and K, potassium, manganese, calcium, phosphorous and sulphur. It is also one of the most powerful sources of iron in the plant kingdom as well as a very rich source of chlorophyll. Anyone who suffers from anaemia should eat and drink the juice of this plant on a regular basis. It definitely helps.
If its nutrient values aren’t enough to convince you to grow stinging nettle, perhaps it will appeal to your vanity. Drinking it as a tea will help settle your digestive system, encourage thick, shiny hair and even help with weight loss. It’s also helpful in relieving stress, fearfulness, nervousness and eating disorders, and it even promotes milk flow in nursing mothers.
So this plant is a real winner in our books and another good reason why growing your own is so important to the wellbeing of you and your family.
Pests and diseases
Some butterfly and moth larvae feed on the leaves and roots.
Control by pruning damaged areas, then wash and rinse well before consuming.
Soup made with the young shoots of stinging nettle is considered a delicacy in Scandinavia. When cooked, its flavour is similar to that of spinach. Here’s a really simple traditional recipe: dip the young shoots in boiling water for 2–3 minutes, strain and place in a bowl. Add finely chopped onion, a squeeze of lemon juice, a dribble of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Delicious.
If, on the other hand, you’re not keen on the flavour, blend a handful of steamed or boiled leaves along with some orange and pineapple and enjoy every morning a burst of fresh juice that’s packed with vitamins.
Nutrients per 100g
Calcium 2900mg 300%RDAMagnesium 860mg 300% RDAPotassium 1750mg 30–100% RDASelenium 220ug 300% RDAZinc .47mg 4% RDAThiamine .54mg 60% RDARiboflavin (B2) .43mg 30% RDAIron 41.8mg 25% RDA