Miner’s lettuce is in full swing here in California, especially after a much awaited for rainy winter. It’s growing with a zeal I’ve not seen in years and popping up in places I’d forgotten it grew, surprising me at what seems to be every corner. In fact, it’s such easy picking at them moment, there’s no need to plant it anytime soon. Which is good news, because it’s a green I absolutely love and there are some seasons when finding it is fleeting at best.
Miner’s lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata, is a cool-season plant native to the western regions of North America and can be found growing naturally from the coast to the Central Plains. However, it’s most abundant in coastal and central California. You can find it growing in shady, wet places near natural seeps and under trees — wherever moisture collects. Though I’ve also found it growing in drier soils, it’s most abundant where conditions are mild.
What’s wonderful is that it’s incredibly nutritious and easy to to grow. A single salad of miner’s lettuce can provide up to a 1/3 of your daily vitamin C, 1/5 of your daily vitamin A, and a 10th of your daily iron. Grow it in shade, part shade, or sun. Plant it in containers or straight in the ground. If you’re gardening in zone 6 or higher, it may volunteer year after year once established. Seeds are also not hard to find and they tend to have a high germination rate.
How To Grow Miner’s Lettuce
Scatter sow seeds or plant in rows about 4 weeks before your last spring frost or as soon as soil can be worked. Sow successional every 3 weeks for a continual harvest until mid-spring or later in mild climates. Plant again in fall for an extra harvest before winter sets in. Though technically a perennial in zones 6 through 9, miner’s lettuce is treated as an annual and can be grown in colder climates once weather warms.
It’s not picky about soil quality, though performs best when soils are high in organic matter and kept evenly moist. While it grows well in shade, it can also take sun. However give it a break from west facing, afternoon sun. Plant it in the shade of other, taller plants or tuck it away where it’s sheltered from the most intense rays of the day.
How To Harvest Miner’s Lettuce
It’s best to harvest leaves at the base of stems where they emerge from the root crown by pinching or breaking them off at a right angle. Do your best not to pull stems because the root systems are shallow and entire plants are easily uprooted. Stems, leaves, and flowers are all edible. I prefer the leaves when they’re smaller, but it really doesn’t matter. They’re so succulent, they taste amazing no matter how pick them.
As a rule of thumb, when foraging for miner’s lettuce only take a few leaves from each plant. Flowers emerge from the secondary leaves, the ones that are round in shape, and it’s important to leave enough for plants to successfully reseed and grow again the following season.
Miner’s lettuce is especially delicious when paired with other mild greens such as mache, tender leaf lettuces, and baby greens, and tossed with a simple salad dressing. My go-to dressing is a 1/3 to 2/3 ratio of vinegar or lemon juice to olive oil. If not using fresh squeezed lemon juice, then champagne or white wine vinegar is perfect. Add some fresh ground salt and pepper and a handful of seeds, and you’re all set.
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