From a December 1992 article in Agricultural Research:
It's known as purslane - a plant that is a troublesome weed in many U.S. crops, especially vegetables. But recent research findings confirm that purslane is also a rich source of fatty acids, vitamin E, and other key nutrients - making it a prime candidate as a new vegetable crop. There are about 200 species of purslane, the common name for a group of plants known as Portulaca. Scientists have focused on one annual species, P. oleracea, found around the world and in all 50 states. It is known for its persistence - it grows even in poor-quality soils with little water and resists disease...
P. oleracea contains more of one omega-3 fatty acid - called alpha-linolenic acid - than any other green leafy vegetable yet studied.
I must admit I was purslane-illiterate until a few weeks ago, when, while roaming around our farmers' market, a bunch of purslane attracted my attention. My friend Christine of Christine Cooks, with whom I was sharing the shopping adventure, invited me to taste a leaf: it was succulent, crunchy, with a slightly tart flavor. I was told I could use it in salads or cook it lightly, like spinach. I was convinced, and proceeded to place the bunch of purslane in my basket.
Had my memory functioned a bit better, I would have remembered reading about purslane salad with yogurt on Almost Turkish Recipe. Soon after my purchase, I made a hybrid soup/stew with hulled barley and decided, on the spur of the moment, to add to it the tender sprigs of the bunch of purslane during the last five minutes of cooking. Later on, I read that "Purslane’s high level of pectin thickens soups and stews," a retroactive justification of my impulsive action. I loved the result and the flavor of purslane, so much so that I have been buying a bunch at every visit to the market. I have also sautéed, together with baby spinach and boiled Swiss chard, and again the result was delicious.
In summary, purslane makes a nice addition to salads, soups and sautés. This is called versatility. Add to the list of good qualities the fact that it is tasty, either raw or lightly cooked, and that it contains precious nutrients, and the result is a really nice resume for a vegetable that, until not long ago, was considered a weed (erbaccia).
The Latin word portulaca is conserved in the scientific name of the plant. According to my Italian dictionary, the word had the variant porcillaca, ancestor of porcellana. As noted at the beginning of the post, the same word in Italian indicates also porcelain, china (for example, un vaso di porcellana, a china vase): in this meaning, the word porcellana has a different etymology. Cowrie is also porcellana in Italian.
Here is the roundup of WHB #133.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the porcellana audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]