Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliate)– or Winter Purslane – is grown in abundance in Mary’s Organic Garden. Not alone is it delicious in a winter mixed salad, but it is also incredibly nutritious, providing a blast of vitamin C on even the coldest, darkest of days.
Native to the western regions of North America, Miner’s Lettuce gets its name from the miners it sustained during the California Gold Rush, who ate it to prevent scurvy. They also benefitted from its vitamin A, iron, beta-carotene, and protein content.
The winter part of its other name – Winter Purslane – refers to the fact that it is a cool season plant which thrives in cold weather. It grows as well in pots and window boxes as it does in the ground, making it an ideal grow-it-yourself option during the cooler months.
It is thought that Miner’s Lettuce was introduced to western Europe by the naturalist Archibald Menzies who brought it to Kew Gardens, London in the 1790s. We first introduced it to Mary’s Organic Garden a number of years ago and it quickly became a staple in our polytunnel and on our menus in Timmy Macs Bistro and Fieldings of Adare.
The time between planting the seeds to harvesting the first leaves is around six weeks. And, you will get several cuts from each plant. Leave it to grow and Miner’s Lettuce will produce beautiful, delicate edible flowers which we use to garnish salads and other dishes. And, unlike many other salad plants, the leaves don’t become bitter when the plant is in flower.
Packets of Miner’s Lettuce seeds are widely available so why not try growing some yourself at home? Simply sow the seeds in compost in pots, a window box or a shaded outdoor patch, water it regularly and watch it thrive. In six weeks, you’ll have your first harvest of tasty and nutritious salad leaves. Be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight and you’ll enjoy many cuts of your crop!