Region: Native to Western North America
Used For: Food
Everyone knows about dandelions and nettle, but North America native Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata, is also an excellent wild food in temperate climates. This is my absolute favorite wild green.
So-called because it supposedly saved miners from scurvy during the California Gold Rush, Miner’s Lettuce is a hardy, winter annual that is rich in vitamin C. It has tender, spade-shaped leaves that are best to eat when they are new.
The flowers are edible also, although the stems become less tender as a mature plant. It grows about 4 to 6 inches high in damp ground and partial shade and likes forests and wooded areas, although it also grows in abandoned planter boxes and other urban spaces.
The tender leaves can be eaten raw. They taste tangy and mild and have a juicy crunch. I love to munch on them during hikes as they appear along the trail. You can also cook Miner’s Lettuce—substitute it for spinach in any recipe—but I think it truly shines when raw. At home, I always use it in a salad or as a garnish.
Spring Salad with Miner’s Lettuce
- 6 handfuls fresh Miner’s Lettuce, chopped
- 1 handful julienned radishes
- 1 handful shaved beets or carrots
- 1 handful chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1 part olive oil
- 1 part balsamic vinegar
- To taste: salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, thyme, cardamom, nutmeg