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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. Its stems are thin, crunchy and equally edible as the tender 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. Once the plant flowers, it bolts to seed and no longer becomes palatable.
Cultivated Miners lettuce is available year-round.
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.
Miners lettuce contains high levels of vitamin C.
Miners lettuce is perfect for a petite salad or as an accoutrement to appetizer plates and first courses. As Miners lettuce appears in spring, best companion ingredients include those that are ready for harvest in spring, including chantarelle and morel mushrooms, wild ramps, grapefruit, blood oranges, kumquats, new potatoes, green garlic, scapes, spring herbs such as parsely, mint and arugula, fresh hen and duck eggs and spring cow's cheeses.
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.
Miners 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.
Recipes that include Miners Lettuce. One is easiest, three is harder.