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Tasty Portulaca

Often called moss rose, this succulent was first introduced from South America to European gardens in the early 1700’s.

It has a high vitamin and iron content, so the tiny succulent leaves were eaten as a vegetable and also used by sailors to prevent scurvy. People ate it to stimulate the appetite, and it was thought that by placing it under the tongue a person could prevent thirst.

Because portulaca is mucilaginous, the plant had many and varied culinary uses, as the taste is appealing and the leaves and flowers can be eaten raw cooked or pickled. The mucilage in the plant, of course, is also useful for thickening soups and stews.

Because it is a succulent and retains moisture, the plant is heat and drought tolerant and flowers best in full sun without much water. The leaves are short and stubby, and the flowers look like single or double roses. The plant is perennial in frost free areas, but generally grown as an annual in pots, hanging baskets, rock gardens or to edge a bed.

The name comes from a Latin word meaning ”little gate.” Unfortunately in my garden, a gate would need to be very high in order to prevent the urban deer from partaking of this succulent snack.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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