Purslane in big pots with a lot of socio-cultural questions


In our visits to Yedikule Gardens we had encountered some basic types of vegetables. In July, for example, we might find purslane (in Turkish Semizotu) in the gardens we had visited. Purslane or vegetable porcelane (Portulaca oleracea) is a species of plants with creeping stems, often considered a weed, although it is cultivated for food and used in herbal medicine. It is annual and very common in gardens. It grows best in warm areas particularly in the south. Purslane grows throughout Turkey-İstanbul and in all warm and temperate regions of the Earth. It is found both in Europe and Asia, America or Australia. Nevertheless its specialties might differ from region to region.

Greeks call andrakla (αντράκλα) or glystrida (γλυστρίδα) as they fry it in olive oil leaves and stems with feta, tomatoes, garlic and marjoram. (I had tried it in Thesseloniki last summer, in July) Young stems and leaves of purslane are eaten in salads, and sour taste gives a little twist. In Turkey it is used in salads but also tends to replace the spinach because it is easier to prepare. For vegetable growing, there is a form with large leaves one gold leaf varieties and varieties with pink or white flowers grown for ornament. (We cannot find this type in Yedikule Gardens) It may also be cooked in a soup or omelet. Purslane is laxative, diuretic and beneficial in case of irritation of mucous membranes. Therefore it is a vegetable used in many dishes based on the other product that might be found in that region. Nevertheless I believe cooking purslane like spinach might demolish its vitamins and reduce the portion of the meal. Using it as a product for salad might be more meaningful if we would like to feed a big family. For big families, cooking meals in big pots with lots of ingredients might be a good way of feeding the family easier and escaping the time wasted on cooking. Ottoman families were also known by its large population including some members from outside the family. I wonder how did cooking the purslane and reducing its portion have become a way of using it. In pragmatically and anthropological aspects I could only give one answer to this problematic. As I mentioned before, maybe the type of purslane differs from region to region and Ottomans had found it more useful to cook. It might be about the proportion of the water inside the plant which had grown in İstanbul. Nevertheless cooking purslane might be a coincidence of cooking culture synthesis. In other words Ottoman families who are used to feeding their family by cooking in big pots might have put the purslane that they had planted in their gardens. In this way they had skipped its usage in salads which might show us how cultural and social facts had influenced the pragmatically and useful solutions in a bad way.

By explaining this dilemma I would like to focus on the bad inducement of social, economic and cultural issues in contrast with ecological aspects. In the case of the usage of purslane, I believe the pot cooking culture of Ottoman-Turkish had skipped the importance of the vitamins inside the purslane and diminished the possible portions of purslane for families. In this paper by considering last session on activism I would like to pay attention to the influence of socio-cultural issues on ecological perception of individuals.


Merve Uçar

Prof. Cemal Kafadar

5 August 2014

Botanically purslane vegetable belongs to family of Portulacaceae and scientifically known as Portulaca oleracea. Purslane is native to India and Persia and widely distributed throught the continent. It is also supposed that it reached North America in the pre-Colombian era. Purslane is an edible leafy vegetable that is the most nutritious plant in the world. It contains most Omega 3 vitamins among other leafy vegetable plants and that’s good for the vegetarians. It’s also high in Vitamins A and C, and has a bit of calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium and potassium. Its leaves appear thick and have slightly lemony and salty taste. The tiny flowers of vegetable generally are yellow, pink or red and there are many little black seed inside. Succulent leaves and stems and its yellow flower buds are also edible. Fresh raw leaves can be used as salad with yogurt or vegetable juice. Additionally it can be cooked as spinach or a delicious soup can be made from the leaves. There is little difference between wild and domesticated purslane in terms of taste and nutrient content. Wild purslane is a creeping plant that grows along the ground where domesticated purslane, sometimes called garden purslane, grows more upright and can reach over a foot in height. Hence, domesticated varieties of purslane stay more quite clean considering wild one. Most say that domestic purslane has a milder flavor than the wild version and it has more lemony taste.

Purslane is a warm-weather crop and need full sun and neutral well-drained soil. The seeds of vegetable are sowed in 10-20 cm depth. The land is fertilized then irrigated. Harvest time (early June till end of the summer) comes right after in 50-70 days. Purslane can be kept in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days and should be eaten while the leaves are fresh. Before the consuming it must be cleaned with plenty of water in order to remove pesticides.

I was already known this vegetable. My mother frequently cooks it but in my child I do not like too much its sour taste. But two weeks ago I bought a bundle of purslane from Yedikule gardens and I cooked. Firstly I repeatedly washed all the leaves and it took many times. After I sure that it was totally purified, I chopped the onions and purslane with stems. Then I put the oil in a large saucepan and added the onions, grated tomato and a little sauce. After all cooked for a while I put the chopped purslane and mixed them all. Finally I barely put in boiled water and a little salt. 20 minutes later my meal was ready. It was too delicious and better than my mom’s.