Purslane leaves as a vegetable in South Africa

Purslane (Portulacaria Afra), or ‘spekboom’ in the Afrikaans language, is a succulent plant, endemic to South Africa’s Eastern Cape province. It has light-green soft leaves and red-colored stems. The leaves can be eaten raw, as pickles, chutney, or jam, or used as an addition to salads or as a salad itself. A peculiar trait of them is, that over the time of the day their acidity changes. From sunrise to sunset, the taste of leaves is sourer than in the evening, when they become less acidic.

Portulacaria Afra will be mainly found in semi-desert- and bushveld rocky areas in the Succulent Karoo, where it grows prolific as bushes or short trees and dominates the whole biome.

For pickles of African purslane, or spekboom, leaves are mixed with onions and other condiments and taste tremendously well. Unfortunately, these pickles are not available everywhere, but mainly at National Park shops. For more information about the manufacturer of such pickles, chutneys, jams, and other spekboom-related products, click here.

Other uses of ‘Spekboom’

  • Fresh purslane/spekboom leaves are sucked for quenching thirst
  • Crushed leaves will provide relief to blisters, rashes, mouth infections, and sore throat, and they are a kind of antiseptic soothing insect stings and sunburn
  • In some areas, the dried stems are used as thatching material for huts

Lessons learned about Portulacaria afra

  • That’s a very well-tasting plant, which can be eaten raw, as pickles or in salads, but also quenches thirst.
  • It can be used to relieve sunburn and insect bites, like rushes from hairy caterpillars

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