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Purslane for the Edible Landscape

Purslane was originally native to much of Europe with the exception being some northern areas. It became a favorite choice for European vegetable gardens.

In its native habitat and as a naturalized plant, this plant generally appears from May through October. It is not winter hardy.

This fast growing garden crop has opposite, spoon shaped leaves. The thick, succulent, branching stems root wherever they touch the ground.

There are several cultivated forms of purslane. The one that is mostly seen in edible landscapes is the kitchen garden purslane (Portulaca oleracea var. sativa). Very flavorful, it is the preferred choice in Europe. Initially this variety is erect, but eventually reaches 1˝ feet in height.

Golden purslane (Portulaca oleracea var. aurea) is named for its yellow foliage and golden stems. This is just slightly less hardy than kitchen garden purslane. It isn’t quite as flavorful. This is less eager to self-sow than most purslanes.

Purslane seeds are quite long lived. These can last for about seven years or so and still germinate well.

In the vegetable garden, kitchen purslane needs a well drained spot. For the best yield, plant it in a warm, sunny spot after the danger of frost is past.

It can be direct sown and thinned, allowing six inches between plants. For early crops, the seeds can be sown indoors or in a greenhouse. The seeds will germinate in about seven to ten days.

It is necessary to water the young transplants until they’re well established in the vegetable garden. After that, they would only need an occasional watering should the weather become unusually dry.

In short season areas, fall crops can be protected with cloches, cold frames, or plastic tunnel-type hoop houses. Though it could be grown as a container plant, it needs a large pot in order to spread.

Kitchen garden purslane is suitable for cut-and-come again crops. You can usually get about three or more harvests from the plants. Harvest usually starts about 40 days after the seeds are planted.

Harvest the stems, leaves, and young tips on a regular basis. If the plants become tough and overgrown, cut them back to about two inches above the soil. This will allow you to get several more harvests from the plants.

So far as problems are concerned, seedlings can be affected by damping off if the seeds are planted during cool weather.

An excellent green for salad, this is very cooling on hot summer days. It is also suitable for garnish, roll-ups, tacos, sandwiches, and spring rolls.

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