Monday, April 9, 2012

Portulaca - Flower, Weed, Herb or Veggie?

Apparently all answers are right.

Portulaca is the general name for an annual, sun-loving and low flowering plant that has different species. There is portulaca grandiflora - the flower plant, and there is portulaca oleracea - the weed, herb and vegetable.

Portulaca grandiflora is also commonly known as 'moss rose' or 'carpet rose', but I've always known it as 'japanese rose'. Some species has single layer flower petals while some others may have multi-layer petals. The flowers come in a multitude of different colours and they are just beautiful grown in wide and shallow pots or as edging plant in the garden.

On the other hand, portulaca oleracea refers to the weed, herb and veggie variety. Other known names are purslane, pigweed, verdolaga, little hogweed and pusley. In the United States, edible portulaca or purslane is categorized as weed. This is a contrast to other parts of the world. It is recognized as a herb in some European countries like France where it is most commonly used for salads. In Asian countries like India and Malaysia and in many places throughout the African continent, purslane is a much-loved vegetable.

Despite its myriad of names and categorization, portulaca oleracea is better known as 'sayur beremi' ('sayur' meaning vegetable) in Malaysia. This vegetable is pretty much 'off the grid' in terms of its popularity as compared to other everyday vegetables. But any true Peranakan person who is born and bred in Melaka - place of Peranakan culture historical roots - would have known and eaten this vegetable. I guess its 'popularity' is more inclined towards non-urban folks. It isn't sold in any of the supermarkets in the city, especially not in a place like Kuala Lumpur, but just maybe (JUST MAYBE!) it can be found sold by Malay traders at wholesale markets on the outskirts of the city.

Sayur beremi brings so much fond memories to me. As the youngest child in the family, I often tagged along my Mom wherever she went and the memories of us picking this veggie together is indelible. My family was living in a charming seaside village by the Straits of Melaka during my childhood. I remember there was a house by the shore line that has purslane growing abundantly in the sandy soil outside. My Mom and I would go with an empty colander or plastic bag and both of us would come home with lots of this wonderful veggie! We were living just five minutes' walk away. Village folks back then were really generous people and the purslane plants were free for anyone's picking!

Purslane is said to contain a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy veggies. It is also known to be very beneficial for the lungs, especially for those who smoke. Purslane has a delicate bitter taste but other than that, it is simply delicious stir-fried with some spicy chilli paste.

Read here on wiki if you would like to know a host of other benefits this modest veggie (or weed!) presents.

This is purslane (edible portulaca) or 'sayur beremi' as we call it in Malaysia.

This huge bunch costs only RM1.00 at the morning market in Melaka Sentral. My brother-in-law bought 3 bunches two weekends ago to feed my big family as most of us were back in our hometown Melaka for 'cheng beng' (Chinese All Souls' day).

We spent the morning picking and choosing the leaves, discarding the bottom fibrous stems.
This is all rinsed and ready for the wok.

Out of the wok...this is how we love our portulaca, weed or not! Mmmm...tasty!


1 big bunch of purslane/'sayur beremi'
4-5 shallots
4-5 pips garlic
4-5 large red chillies
25 g dried prawns (soak in water for 15 minutes, rinsed once and drain off the water)
1/4 cup cooking oil

- Pound or blend shallots, chillies and dried prawns together.
- Heat oil in a wok.
- Saute the blended paste for 8-10 minutes on low to medium heat until it is fragrant.
- Put in purslane and stir fry on medium to high heat until the veggie is all cooked through.
- A little salt may be added but the dried prawns is already salty.

Last but not least, below are 2 species of my portulaca, the flower plant variety. These are not edible. The first two pictures is of the same plant and the leaves look similar with purslane, the edible portulaca. The last picture has needle-like leaves with multi-layer flower.

petite nyonya


  1. I happen to have the edible one in my garden... one stalk came with my Bayam, I threw it into the garden, but it grew into a big plant and now, have a few anaks oredi. I am hoping to cook it, but just don't know when.

  2. This veggie definitely brings back fond memories of happy carefree days! Need to grow some in my garden too! Next time must buy from the market and into the gardening pot! Bila kempunan mo makan, tak dapat cari pulak! Delicious with bubur! And who would have known that this sayur pahit is from the family of the Portulaca flower! Great info! o:)

  3. Hi Nyonya, Holy Smoke, never knew boleh makan these one. Looks delicious. Must ask my chief cook to try.....
    But not easy pronounce the name....maybe those from Malacca boleh as ada rhythm, ha ha.

    I have not gone for cheng beng 12 years.....
    Must try do it one of these years....
    You have a great week, senang datang, but drink cold water first....
    Best regards.


    Mine is here ;)

  5. I like portulaca and they can be grown here in the summer. I did not know there is an edible variety although the vege looks vaguely familiar. Your dish is like a quick sambal belachan stir-fry. Looks very tasty!

  6. Memang sedap. Actually boleh buat rata-rata. Without nasi also can. Yumz.

  7. Hi Nyonya, I must apologize to you, you left 2 comments in my got thru, but other one went into spam, my computer deleted it before I could tarek it back.
    I think the one about swim trunks.
    My apologies.

    I'm still wondering how come it went into 'spam'?
    But other one did not?
    But always thrilled see you drop by.....
    Have always loved Nyonya ladies.....
    Not only for their cooking, but...Nyonya virtues. Ha ha ha.

    You have a nice sunday, stay beautiful....
    Whats the Sunday menu? Ayam tempra? Buah keluak curry?

  8. lovely cliks..
    purslane looks absolutely healthy to cook with..;)
    Tasty Appetite

  9. It looks like purslane that we have here and gorws like a weed. I've never had it but I heard it's tasty!

  10. I was searching for the local name of this vege when I saw your blog. It's also called salarumi I believe or gelang pasir. I have seen it in the wet market here in Penang but it is not always available. I shall try your recipe the next time I get my hands on this vege

  11. Oh wow - is that definitely purslane then? I'm very curious as to its flavour when cooked like this!

  12. Hi Maya, the names you mentioned are new to me. How interesting!

    Hi Su-Lin, yes this edible veggie is purslane. It's delicious although can be just slightly bitter.

  13. I tried putting portulaca in salad with a sweet vinaigrette dressing last year and it was great! My friend chops it up and puts it in stews... It grows without any encouragement here in southeast Saskatchewan!". ;oD

  14. I tried putting portulaca in salad with a sweet vinaigrette dressing last year and it was great! My friend chops it up and puts it in stews... It grows without any encouragement here in southeast Saskatchewan!". ;oD

  15. Hi Lori, I've never tried using it in salads before but am keen to try it the next time. Thks for sharing!

  16. Hi!

    I'm definitely going to try this one. Amazingly, I can buy this here in London of all places. There's a big Greek/Turkish community near where I live, and I have seen it in the vegetable section of one of the grocery stores.

    Going to go looking for it this afternoon!


    1. Hi Marcus, interesting to know that purslane is available there too. Hope you'll like it in a spicy stir fry.cheers!

  17. yes u r right..I've never seen/eaten this before and i'm from KL! thanks for the info, didn't know i could get this in Malaysia, I thought it's a local plant in Greece and only available in that region of the world. thanks again

  18. Thanks fr d great info.i have it on Parit infront of my house in Sg.Rambai,Malacca. Nice to know details about it.thanks again.

    1. hi Dior...must be growing healthy there at the parit.

  19. Hi Nyonya, I am a great fan of purslane. I have red, magenta n yellow but never see white sold in KL. Appreciated if anyone knew where to buy most of the colours n do let me know if anyone also knew where to buy the edible yellow flower type in KL wet market.

    1. hi Zoe, i think yu can find white flower variety in most plant nurseries, or you can go t Sg Buloh where there are more choices of nurseries. I'm not sure where edible purslane is sold in KL. I only know where it's sold in Melaka.

  20. Nice site you've got. I was looking for "portulaca recipes" because it grows like crazy as a weed in my garden in Canada.

    1. hi Boiling, if only i have them growing like crazy in my garden too :)

  21. family also love this vege, my recipe same but we add a egg before dish up.

  22. I've had this super prolific species growing in my veggie patch in Brisbane, Australia, and am only just realising how wonderful it can be! A curse turned blessing, thank you! Keen to give it a try now :)