Mithra Broadleaf Purslane
Origin: Washington State
Improvement status: Cultivar
Seeds per packet: ~175
Germination tested 12/2020: 87%
Here’s a fun new release from our friend and colleague Chris Homanics of Head, Hands, Heart Nursery and Seed in the state of Washington, who found this broad-leafed purslane growing at his farm and named it after Mithra, the Persian god of the rising sun and friendship, who oversaw the changing of the seasons. Chris says this about the variety:
Mithra Broadleaf Purslane is a much-improved selection compared to its common weedy low-growing counterpart. With a much more upright growth habit, larger leaves, and less oxalic acid content, it is a worthy addition to summer salads and well worth a place in your garden. The fleshy succulent foliage and stems have a pleasing soft crunch with a tart lemon zing and light saltiness that carries the flavors of salad dressing well. I often eat this raw in the field during the heat of the summer for its cooling properties. Purslane can be eaten both raw and cooked. Cooked it can be used to thicken stews, steamed, or sauteed. Pairs well with other summer vegetables. It is well worth exploring the various culinary usages of this versatile green. The seeds can be used culinarily as well and are pleasantly crunchy, reminiscent of poppy seeds. Globally it’s known by many names such as perpin or khorfeh in Iran, berbin in Iraq, lunia in Hindi, nunia sag in Bengali, paruppu keerai in Tamil, regla in Egypt, and verdolaga throughout Latin America.
The whole plant resembles the gracefulness of a Jade plant. As the season progresses, purslane will eventually produce an abundance of small yellow flowers which mature into little capsules full of black sand-sized seeds. While it is famous for its ability to grow in any soil including the most arid and crusty soils you can imagine, for best flavor it benefits from the normal care, attention, and good tilth practices you would apply to any other crop. Over time this plant will surely reseed and naturalize in your garden.
The species name ‘oleracea’ means a consumed cultivated vegetable. Believed to be native to Iran or India, purslane has been used throughout the Middle East and Central Asia since ancient times, but it now has a cosmopolitan distribution around the world. Purslane seed remains have been found by archaeologists in culinary contexts at the Iron Age site of Kastanas in Northern Greece, dating to approximately 1200BCE. It is also widely found in ancient Middle Eastern agricultural sites and is considered to be a key indicator of Neo-Assyrian (~900-600 BCE) agricultural irrigation systems. This vegetable has been cultivated in southern Europe since at least the 1300s.
While leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds are all edible, it is best to pick young leaves and tender shoots. Considered by many to be a “power food” due to superior nutritional properties, both the leaf and seed are one of the highest known sources of Omega-3 oils among leafy vegetables. Among these healthy fats purslane includes high levels of alpha linolenic acid (ALA). It’s also an excellent source of antioxidants including vitamin E, beta carotene, and glutathione. Also an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, and iron. Its juiciness is attributed to its over 90% water content! Not just superb human food, but also makes an excellent addition to forages for chickens due to its nutritional properties, especially egg layers as it has been shown to increase egg production and quality of the egg yokes by increasing omega-3 content. Considered a “universal panacea” among traditional herbalists, purslane has been used medicinally both internally and externally for a wide array of conditions and complaints.
GROWING TIPS: Purslane prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Can be direct sown about every 2” in-row or sown into large cell trays after danger of frost has passed. Cover with ⅛” of soil. Transplant or thin to 8-12” apart and about 2’ between rows.