I posted a photo of our Miner’s Lettuce on FB and received some interesting comments. The main comment was – What is Miner’s Lettuce? The photo to the left is Miner’s Lettuce in our alley garden. I gathered the following information from Specialty Produce on the web. Here is what they say.
Seasons/Availability – Miner’s lettuce is usually found in spring time.
Current Facts – Miners lettuce, scientific name, Claytonia perfoliata, is a trailing annual vine that grows wild more than it is cultivated. It is a greater source of food for animals than it is for humans, providing a grazing source for gophers, flocking birds, quail, doves and cattle, while seed-eating birds eat the plant’s fruits allowing for the plant to continue to flourish in the wild for centuries. Miner’s lettuce is sometimes confused with purslane (Portulaca oleracea) which is also a cool season wild growing crop.
Description/Taste – Miners lettuce is petite and delicate in appearance and on the palate. Its composed of thin, succulent lemon lime stems that support kelly green colored basal leaves. The flavor is mild and sweet, with a subtle earthiness. At its height of maturity, miners lettuce produces numerous edible flowers from its stems.
Nutritional Value – Miners lettuce is high in vitamin C, beta carotene and protein.
Applications – Rinse freshly picked Miner’s lettuce in cold water. Drain and chill in the refrigerator a few hours to crisp. For a delicious salad, toss together leaves, flowers and stems. Combine three parts Miner’s lettuce with one part watercress and one part sheep sorrel and add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar. For flavor variation, drizzle with vinaigrette or other favorite dressing. It may be boiled or steamed like spinach. To store, wrap in a perforated plastic bag; refrigerate in crisper drawer. Use within a few days as this plant tends to deteriorate quickly.
Ethnic/Cultural Info – Miners Lettuce gets its name from the California Gold Rush Years. Gold miners ate the plant in abundance and it is widely known that its nutritive properties prevented scurvy.
Geography/History – Miners Lettuce lettuce is native to the Western Coastal and Mountain regions of North America, where it now also grows wild in California from Sacramento to the San Joaquin Valley. It sprouts most commonly in the spring, preferring cool, damp conditions. It appears in sunlit areas after the first heavy rains of the season. The most prevalent abound in shaded forest areas among fir, pine and oak trees. Miners lettuce colonizes disturbed areas, especially those that experienced fires in previous seasons. It also can be found growing in virgin fields of wheatgrass and bluegrass. Much like most lettuce varieties, when summer heats up so does the lettuce, finding its leaves red and dried out in extreme heat conditions.
And from Matti Kaarts Blog Page, I got this recipe. Enjoy the recipe and this article!
Miners Lettuce Salad
baby beets, beet greens, rapini, spring garlic 1 bunch of miners lettuce
1 bunch of baby beets, with greens still attached
1 bunch of rapini
1 bunch of spring garlic
10 sage leaves, really thinly sliced across the leaf (chiffonade)
2 pinches of sugar
Cut the beets from the beet greens. Put the beets in a deep sided saute pan, and fill with enough water to just cover the beets. Add the pinches of sugar to the water, along with a small knob of butter. Put a lid on the pan, and get it boiling. Remove the lid slightly, so that some steam can release, and the water can reduce. Cooking time depends upon the size of the beets – with small ones like this it will be about 15 minutes – possibly 20. They are cooked when you can just push a knife through one pretty easily. The idea here is that they are just cooked through when you have almost no liquid in the pan – just enough for a glaze. If they are cooked before a lot of water is reduced, remove the beets from the liquid, reduce it to a glaze, then put them back in. If you need to add more water, do so. Snip the miners lettuce stalks about 1/2″ from the leaves. Discard the stalks.
When the beets are cooked, allow them to cool and rub with a paper towel to peel. Toss them back into the glaze.
Cut the beet greens across the leaf into thin strips (1/2″ wide). Do the same for the rapini leaf. Trim off any excess stem. Slice the spring garlic diagonally across the stalk, discarding the dark green section.
In a large pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. When pretty hot toss in half of the garlic and half of the sage leaves. Cook for 30 seconds, then toss in the beet greens. Gently toss these in the butter/oil, and allow to wilt. This will only take a couple of minutes. When they are just wilted, remove them from the pan. Wipe the pan out.
Add another tablespoon of oil and butter to the pan. When hot, toss in the rest of the sage and garlic. Again, cook this for 30 seconds. Toss in the rapini leaves. Cook this till it is just wilted. This will cook through much faster – maybe 30 seconds.
To compose the dish put a small pile of the beet greens in the center of a plate. Top this with the rapini greens. On top of this put a pretty little pile of the miners lettuce. Scatter the beets throughout the dish. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the salad. This will help brighten and lift the flavors.