This is one of the many broken pots full of not much that were left by the previous occupants. Before throwing it out, I thought I should just check that what was growing in it was a weed and not some beautiful specimen of a plant.
Correct – it is common purslane (Portulaca oleracea), also known as little hogweed, red root, and pursley. My first bit of research revealed severe warnings: “Pull it out before it goes to seed” and “Don’t leave the pulled plants on the soil – they often re-root!” The plants grow from a central taproot, and their slightly succulent characteristic make them very tolerant to drought. They are annuals, so if you want to get rid of purslane, follow the above advice!
However, it seems purslane is also something of a superfood. The stems, leaves and flowerbuds can all be eaten, either raw or cooked. According to one source it “has seven times more beta-carotene than carrots, six times more vitamin E than spinach, and fourteen times more Omega 3 fatty acids”.
The taste is said to be slightly bitter/salty/lemony – I found it to be pleasant, refreshing, and with a nice bit of crunch. Apparently it can be used in salads or sandwiches instead of lettuce or pickles, steamed or stir-fried, or used in soups and stews. It can be substituted for spinach in many recipes. Interestingly, the tangy taste is due to oxalic and malic acids, which are at their highest levels when harvested first thing in the morning, and which convert to glucose as the day goes on.
So the pot may have to go but the plant can stay. And I’ll be trying it in a salad or sandwich later on today!