The Unknown Herb in Your Garden

The National Herald

Portulaca oleracea. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

One of the rare skills of Generation Alpha (born from 2020 and after), would be the recognition of plants in a garden or in the wild. In the past people collected food from forests, parks – wherever there was a green space, opportunities for food existed. Nowadays, people only see unwanted ‘weeds’ or colorful flowers, but many of our garden native greens are not only edible but also medicinal. The appreciation of each one of these plants, about what they can offer to you or the environment is the key issue of environmental awareness. Specifically, a citizen, should first feel connected and then take action for creating a better planet, a better future for the next generation. This is how the story of common purslane begins.

Portulaca oleracea is a worldwide common weed with a great history in many civilizations. From Native Americans and Australians, to Ancient Greeks and the Indies, portulaca was a great vegetable growing everywhere, from compacted and dry soils to muddy wet meadows. Its rare path to photosynthesis made it tolerate all the extremes.

In Greece portulaca is known as ‘glistrida’ meaning “the weed that you slip on” or ‘antrakla andrachne’ meaning “the weed of men.” The first sign of its use was from its seeds found in a protogeometric era (1050-900 BC) location near Thessaloniki. Theophrastus and Plineus were advising the consumption of it for its healing properties. It has a lot of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients.

It’s main and most well-known impact on your body is stimulating your appetite. A common phrase in Greece is “He/She ate glistrida and cannot get full.” But the fresh juice of the plant with honey is ideal for cough and shortness of breath. Also, the liquid of the plant can be used like aloe, applied directly on burns and wounds. In soups it will give you any thickness you want because of its mucilaginous juice. Also, consuming it raw as a salad with a pinch of olive oil and lemon juice can give you a lot of vitamins and cool you off on a hot day. In a Greek salad with feta cheese, you can give a twist with its sweet-pungent taste. Maybe this is one reason it grows in summer! Everything in nature is connected!

* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.

Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist-MSc Botany-Biology and PhD Candidate in Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication.