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Purslane: Wild Vegetable with Better Nutritional Quality
Friday, 02 August, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Rajasee Shailendra Nimbalkar
Plants are gifts of God for mankind. In India, most rural inhabitants depend on wild edible plants to meet their additional food requirements and attain household food security.

India, being blessed with diverse climatic conditions, has a wide array of edible Green Leafy Vegetables (GLV) some of which are locally grown and utilised from ancient periods as source of food as they contain many nutrients and minerals which can nourish the ever growing human population and helps to attain nutrient security.

Resilient, adaptive and tolerant
Many of these greens are growing as weeds in the crop fields which are resilient, adaptive and tolerant to adverse climatic conditions and need less investment and do not require much investment, hence it is described as poor man?s vegetables.

Although, they can be raised at lower management costs even on poor marginal lands, they have remained underutilised due to lack of awareness and popularisation of technologies for utilisation. It is essential that the locally available

GLV, which are inexpensive and easy to cook, be used in the diets to eradicate micronutrient malnutrition and also to prevent the degenerative diseases.

Therefore, studies can be undertaken with the objective of exploring potentialities of the lesser known underutilised green leafy vegetable, “Purslane” (Portulaca Oleracea) in the form of dehydrated powder.

Better nutritional quality
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea L.) deserves special attention from agriculturalists as well as nutritionists. Purslane is a common weed in turfgrass areas as well as in field crops. Recently, research demonstrates that purslane has better nutritional quality than the major cultivated vegetables, with higher beta-carotene, ascorbic acid, and alpha-linolenic acid.

Additionally, purslane has been described as a power food because of its high nutritive and antioxidant properties. Different varieties, harvesting times, and environmental conditions can contribute to purslane's nutritional composition and benefits.

Hypotension and diabetes
Purslane is popular as a traditional medicine in China and Hong Kong for the treatment of hypotension and diabetes. Scientifically, it is not proven to have antidiabetic effects, but still people use it for this purpose. An experiment has been carried out for the extraction of crude polysaccharide(s) from purslane to investigate the hypoglycemic effects of these constituents with animal tests for the use of this plant in the treatment of diabetes.

Purslane is a very good source of alpha-linolenic acid. Alpha-linolenic is an Omega-3 fatty acid which plays an important role in human growth and development and in preventing diseases. Purslane has been shown to contain five times higher Omega-3 fatty acids than spinach.

Omega-3 fatty acids belong to a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids essential for human growth, development, prevention of numerous cardiovascular diseases, and maintenance of a healthy immune system. Our bodies do not synthesise Omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore Omega-3 fatty acids must be consumed from a dietary source.

Omega-3 fatty acids contain 18 to 24 carbon atoms and have three or more double bonds within its fatty acid chain. Fish is the richest source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Health authorities highly recommend that we consume fish regularly to meet our bodies' requirements of Omega-3 fatty acids, as other sources are limited and do not supply nearly as much Omega-3 fatty acids.

Purslane has recently been identified as the richest vegetable source of alpha-linolenic acid, an essential Omega-3 fatty acid. The lack of dietary sources of Omega-3 fatty acids has resulted in a growing level of interest to introduce purslane as a new cultivated vegetable. Purslane is used in many food items in Hong Kong. It is one of the common items available in Hong Kong restaurants.

Adaptable to adverse conditions
Purslane flourishes in numerous bio-geographical locations worldwide and is highly adaptable to many adverse conditions such as drought, saline, and nutrient deficiency. India ranks second in vegetable production in the world. Green Leafy Vegetables are mostly seasonal so that they cannot be available throughout the year.

Dehydration is the best option to preserve the Green Leafy Vegetable during abundant production. Dehydrated Green Leafy Vegetables are rich in protein, total phenolic compounds, natural antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre so it can be used in different products for enrichment.

Dehydration process concentrates the nutrients. Blanching is one of the pre-treatment given to vegetable before dehydration to minimise the microbial load and deactivate the enzymatic activity to prevent the browning reaction. Dehydrated vegetable powder can be used in different traditional as well as commercial products for value addition purpose.

(The author is assistant professor, Department of Food Technology, CNCVCW, CSIBER, Kolhapur. She can be contacted at
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