For centuries purslane has been used in cooking as a flavouring herb. Purslane tea was considered to be good for all pains in the head which resulted from lack of sleep.
Purslane, portulaca oleracea, is an attractive succulent little hardy annual with smooth wedge-shaped leaves and a much branched reddish stem. The tiny yellow flowers appear in June and July, growing singly or in clusters at the top of the stems.
In the kitchen, small amounts of purslane can be chopped and added to salads. Purslane is one of the ingredients in the traditional French soupe bonne femme. For winter use, the thick succulent stems can be pickled in vinegar as an accompaniment to cold meats. It is a summer herb full of Vitamin C and a healthy addition to a salad, and it stimulates the appetite.
Purslane can be grown from seed sown in the spring from May onwards into its flowering position. Sow in a sunny spot in ordinary garden soil and when the seedlings are large enough thin them out to a handspan apart. The seeds germinate quickly and the plants are ready for eating in six weeks, so a succession of sowings can be made throughout the summer.
Purslane is always used fresh, because of the difficulty in drying such a thick fleshy leaf. Leave some of
the early sown plant for seed.
Purslane is a tonic herb and is slightly laxative. An infusion will help to stimulate the appetite and is also a remedy for digestive ailments.
* To make the infusion: Pour 1 cup of boiling water on to 2 teaspoons of finely chopped leaves. Leave to infuse for 5 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey if preferred. Purslane has a sharp slightly peppery flavour so it is probably nicer without sweetening. Make the infusion fresh every time and drink a small glassful or as required once or twice a day. It can also be taken for coughs and chest ailments.
* For a stubborn cough the expressed juice of the herb can be taken with a little honey a teaspoonful at a time when the cough is troublesome.
* For instant relief from the heat, well-bruised or crushed leaves can be placed on the temples and forehead to cool and soothe the head.