A perennial plant in warmer climates than Britain, purslane is killed by frost but can be grown as a half-hardy annual in this country. It can become an aggressive weed in areas where the climate suits it.
Requires a moist light rich well-drained soil in a sunny position. Plants will not produce good quality leaves when growing in dry conditions.
Plants take about six to eight weeks to produce a crop from seed and can then be harvested on a cut and come again principle.
For an early crop, the seed is best sown under protection in early spring and can then be planted out in late spring. Outdoor sowings in situ take place from late spring to late summer, successional sowings being made every two to three weeks if a constant supply of the leaves is required.
Leaves and stems - raw or cooked. The young leaves are a very acceptable addition to salads, their mucilaginous quality also making them a good substitute for okra as a thickener in soups. Older leaves are used as a potherb. The leaves have a somewhat sour flavour. A spicy and somewhat salty taste.
The leaves are a source of omega-3 fatty acids, though seed sources such as walnuts are magnitudes richer. The leaves can be dried for later use.
Seed - raw or cooked. The seed can be ground into a powder and mixed with cereals for use in gruels, bread, pancakes etc. The seed is rather small and fiddly to utilize. In arid areas of Australia the plants grow quite large and can produce 10, 000 seeds per plant, a person can harvest several pounds of seed in a day. The seeding plants are uprooted and placed in a pile on sheets or something similar, in a few days the seeds are shed and can be collected from the sheet. In Britain, however, yields are likely to be very low, especially in cool or wet summers.
The ash of burnt plants is used as a salt substitute.