Purslane, Thou Art My Bane

By Bonnie Grant | March 27, 2021
Image by hongquang09
by Bonnie Grant
March 27, 2021

Organic gardeners can really take a hit when it comes to weed control. There are some effective homemade herbicides, but there are also some weeds that just thumb their noses at such attempts to eradicate them. Purslane is one of the latter. It is like something out of a horror movie in that it will spring back even if you think you have killed it. It also spreads like wildfire, creating a pandemic of matting weeds and their attendant yellow flowers. I hate the stuff. 

I never really had a problem with the weed purslane until I moved to the hot, dry side of the state. In spite of deeply freezing temperatures in the winter, this annual reliably springs up every year. My much neglected new property was rife with the stuff when we moved in. In life, it is good to try to make lemonade from lemons. My foraging book recommended eating the stuff and touted it as one of the top edible weeds. So we tried. It is not an unpleasant taste, a bit grassy. However, the texture leaves much to be desired. It is like an overcooked okra, mucilaginous and slimy. So the thought of leaving it as part of our edible landscape was taken out of the equation. Annihilation it was to be. 

Purslane Control 

I tried just hand digging out the huge, sprawling mats of the stuff. Image-wise, this worked until a couple weeks later. I soon had large patches developing in the same sites. Not one to give up easily, I dug these up again. There is a saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I was officially insane. Research indicated that any part of the purslane root or leaf left behind would cheerfully re-sprout. It was like a bad dream. 

Next up was horticultural vinegar. I hoped this acidic product would burn out the plants and provide excellent purslane control.  It has worked on some of my most tenacious weeds but I knew it would require reapplication. No matter, spraying was much easier than kneeling in dirt and digging. I sprayed, waited a week, sprayed again. Lather, rinse, repeat. For a month I tried the vinegar but the waxy cuticle on the leaves of these edible weeds resisted taking in the poison. What was that saying again? Vinegar was not a good purslane control. 

Finally, I tried my excellent homemade, all purpose weed control solutions. Surely the plant couldn’t withstand an assault of the simple, but effective, boiling water and salt method. Nothing. The next option was a mixture of Borax and water, spot sprayed on each plant. Nada. I was really ready to rip my hair out, but it was the end of season and we had a freeze. I assumed the plant would succumb. Nope. It finally did die back after sustained freezing, and I hoped getting on it early in spring would control the problem. How many ways are there to say “no”?

You guessed it. Spring was purslane’s time. It revelled in the warming temperatures, giving me rude gestures at every turn in the garden. It was worse! Apparently each plant can shoot out thousands of seeds which will just wait in soil until conditions are ripe for germination. I probably had millions of seeds in the ground at this point. The only thing for it was solarization. Large swaths of black plastic covered the bare ground for months. Did it work? Nyet. 

So I am waiting for another spring and the yearly battle with purslane. It is useless to me as an edible, it is far too prolific and tenacious, but maybe I should live with it. It has rather pretty leaves, and attractive golden blooms. Should I just treat it as a natural ground cover and not worry about it? Spring will tell the tale.

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  • Robert Layten
    Comment added April 2, 2021Reply

    If you can get it. Corn gluten may work as a pre-emergent. I have used it successfully to stop other weeds, but where I live purslane isn't that big of a problem. Growing foods in a desert has different challenges. The other thing is to talk with the extension agent in your county.

  • Cascadia
    Comment added April 2, 2021Reply

    Borrow some goats! They are great at eradicating weeds.

  • Mary
    Comment added April 1, 2021Reply

    Purslane is edible and is not just a common weed. There are lots of so called weeds that are edible. I think you need a course about natural foods

    • Thomas E. Grey
      Comment added April 2, 2021Reply

      Absolutely correct, Mary! I love purslane and credit it and other "weeds" with curing a decades-long struggle with asthma. It is also attractive and I have no idea why anyone claiming to be a 'natural' gardener would attempt to eradicate it. It is very mild flavored with a nice crunch. A favorite wild edible!

  • JE
    Comment added April 1, 2021Reply

    I love how everyone in the comments are telling you how nutritious and tasty Purslane is and how you should be eatimg it....when you already said you tried and it was gross! Seriously...what is with all these judgmental comments indirectly (or directly) calling you stupid for wanting to remove a pernicious weed from your yard?!

    It really doesn't matter how much someone else likes a plant, if it's irritating you IN YOUR YARD, infesting your other planter beds, I totally understand your desire to remove it. As for the people thrilled that it's growing in their yards - great! I'm sure the first person to plant kudzu and ivy in their yards were equally thrilled.

    All that said, I'm really sorry you apparently attracted such a toxic reader base. I do wish you luck in your weed control efforts!

  • Carol Condon
    Comment added April 1, 2021Reply

    I've begun adding blood meal to my garden in the spring and it has really cut down the purslane growth

    • Kristin Barrett
      Comment added April 1, 2021Reply

      Steamed Purslane with Lemon and ONions 1 bunch purslane 1 tbls olive oil, 1 onion chopped, 1 lemon, s/p, dried red chili to taste. Sautee the onion. Steam the purslane for two minutes and add to saute. Add salt, pepper and red onions. Vinegar for condiment. Rice vinegar is nice.

  • Lisa price
    Comment added April 1, 2021Reply

    Are you kidding me?! You're lucky to have so much! Learn to use it or learn to share it. FYI local animal places that feed reptiles and such will HAPPILY take purslane that hasn't has any chemicals put on it as it is a healthy crop for many critters.

  • Gerry Kolb
    Comment added March 31, 2021Reply

    That's the purpose of pre-emergent and post - emergent herbicides. NOT removing purslane and other tough weeds only increases soil based seeds.

  • Magz
    Comment added March 30, 2021Reply

    Wow, this is tragic. I'll grant you somw reclamation of your space... too much of anything is not good. But!!! Purslane is probably the most nutritious plant your garden will ever grow. Pick the younger, smaller plants, Chop it into salads, fry lightly into omelets. Put a bit into smoothies.

  • Patricia
    Comment added March 30, 2021Reply

    Best way to cook those pearline is you go ahead and you boil them for about 3 3 minutes or less until they turn like an avocado green and in you and you're still at you Dice up your pork before State your garlic your onion address seasoning and then once you pearl earrings are done Adam to your meat and let him simmer for about an hour-and-a-half they're really called for verthalogas in in California its every good for you full of iron you can put in salads scrambled eggs I grow them every year

    • Deanna Kramer
      Comment added March 30, 2021Reply

      Hello purslane farmer. I have a big harvest each year too. If you put 1/4 cup of salt and 1/8 cup of dish soap it works well.

  • Scott Neuman
    Comment added March 29, 2021Reply

    I'll take all you can pull. Healthy for you, nice and crunchy. Why spend money on food when it grows right in front of you.

  • Mitch
    Comment added March 29, 2021Reply

    What a delightful article. Thanks for the laughs.
    I do envy you and wish it was my garden. I personally like eating purslane more Mexican style of cooking, but I also love to share my garden harvests with others. Which brings me around to asking, have you ever considered donating your beloved gift from the garden gods to a local food bank?
    Again, thank you for this great article. Hope you have a great day and enjoy your garden. Thank you

  • Debbie Turner
    Comment added March 29, 2021Reply

    Purslane is a valued, nutritious plant in our household. Stop trying to kill everything you're not familiar with. That's wat got us into the agricultural chemical mess we're in today.

  • Fitzgibbons
    Comment added March 29, 2021Reply

    One of the few plants that contain Omega-3.

  • Asa
    Comment added March 29, 2021Reply

    My wife and I actually plant purslane! Unbelievable benefits! Just mix lightly some good quality olive oil, a bit of garlic,or garlic powder a splash of lemon, salt, pepper, and fresh chopped tomatoes. I am middle
    Eastern and grew up with purslane. It should NOT be slimy at all. Maybe your eating something else. Good luck.

    • Laura
      Comment added March 29, 2021Reply

      We had a years long battle with purslane and finally got ahead of it when we learned to eat it. Pick it very young and mix the leaves in salads with crunchy greens. No slime that way.
      I guess we ate it to death, haven't seen it for a couple years.

  • Ferhat Erdal
    Comment added March 29, 2021Reply

    Purslane, do not fight it, eat it!
    Purslane is a very healthy food and great for salads and many other dishes.

  • Yuri Nate
    Comment added March 28, 2021Reply

    As Trump hammers home in his life pep talks: "NEVER give up"!
    Next year.... gives you time to consider options like: remove the top 2-3 feet of soil and start fresh; maybe some homemade napalm and play pretend "Scorched Earth" wargames or as the last resort; go with the Chem's and turn your spot into a toxic moonscape! You will win..... eventually!

  • Meg Brown
    Comment added March 28, 2021Reply

    Have u tried sugar? Just sprinkle it where u want to kill weeds. If u get ants, yarlic water is good 4 those.

  • Tina
    Comment added March 28, 2021Reply

    Bag it up and sell it. The same people who pay for dandelion greens will definitely buy this. I missed purslane when we moved to an area that it wasn't very common so I bought some seeds and grow it in pots

    • Jennifer
      Comment added March 28, 2021Reply

      Funny, I love purslane I even let it grow in my veggie garden as it is edible rich in vitamins and nutrients and has a pepper like taste. I is great to garnish your meals with or even add to salads or salsas. Sorry I can't help with your distain to purslane but maybe you can use it for a food source.

  • Weston Prestage
    Comment added March 28, 2021Reply

    I love purslane! As a weed it's also not too bad. Cute yellow flowers and no spikes or thorns. When you do pull it out it all comes up easy in one bunch. And it's edible. Least of my worries.

  • Joe S
    Comment added March 28, 2021Reply

    I grows like crazy in my yard. My kids bring bunches of it in, rinse it off and eat it right from the stem. Do more research on it.

  • Tricia
    Comment added March 28, 2021Reply

    I can't here to say what Vivian said! Do what we humans do best and eat it out of dominance! It is wonderful sauteed like spinach and looks adorable when the saute is placed on toast.

  • Patricia Kirby
    Comment added March 28, 2021Reply

    I love purslane as an edible....wish I could get it again in my CSA..

  • George Pospisil
    Comment added March 28, 2021Reply

    This is the most stupid organic gardening article I've ever read. Purslane is valued like gold in many parts of the world. Some saints in the Middle East live on it exclusively. If nothing elGse eat it in salads.

  • Jim
    Comment added March 28, 2021Reply

    A little Round up will take care of it. If that fails, try a blow torch.

  • Vivian
    Comment added March 28, 2021Reply

    If you bother to look up the qualities of purslane you might appreciate it's essential value as a high nutrition edible. Put it in salads, make it into pesto! You won't find a healthier "weed" ;)

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