This annual weed is so powerful and persistent it’s even found in restaurants. But don’t look for it growing through cracks in the floorboards: it’ll be on your plate, perhaps tossed with various spring greens and toasted almonds and drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette. Purslane (Portulaca oleracea), formerly known as a tough, mat-forming garden weed, has been discovered to be a nutritious, tasty, low-maintenance (hah!) salad green. (Discovered, that is, in the U.S.: in many other places it’s been on the menu and used as an herbal remedy for centuries.) Its plump, succulent leaves tolerate—no, thrive on—heat, drought, and neglect. Just don’t confuse it with prostrate spurge, which is also a low-growing, mat-forming annual weed but decidedly nonedible.
Purslane is a vigorous grower and its thick mats can crowd out vegetables or flowers you actually intended to cultivate in your garden. The stem nodes root where they touch the ground, so it can seem to leap across a garden bed overnight.
If you want to use purslane in salads, keep one or two plants around so you can pinch off a few stems at dinnertime. As for the rest—dig them out by hand.
—photo courtesy of the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden.