Miner’s lettuce

Miner’s lettuce reminds me of tiny lily pads

I was delighted to find a specimen of this delicious little weed growing in our yard among the poppies: miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), but I don’t think it will thrive.

This plant is native to the West coast of the U.S. (and down into S. America, I believe) but it doesn’t do well in LA.* I never see it on the streets in my neighborhood, it’s too hot and dry. The only place I ever spot it–and rarely at that–is in wet, shady places in a few parks.

However, it loves the weather up North. In San Francisco, it takes over entire yards. Folks up there seem a little overwhelmed by it–and all I do is marvel that they’re not eating it as fast as it can grow.

See, miner’s lettuce is one of the best of all edible weeds: tender, mild, succulent. The perfect salad green. Search it out where it is buffeted by sea breezes, and it will also taste of salt.

You can buy seed for this plant and attempt to establish it as a feral green in your yard, or even grow it in beds. I’ve never tried here–I prefer to hunt my weeds.

Tell me, where else does it grow? How far East has it spread?  Comment if you know it or grow it.

If you want to learn more about miner’s lettuce, here’s a nice longer article about it at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

* ETA: I overgeneralized. I should have said “my side of LA.” A commenter from Westchester points out she grows it just fine, so folks on the west side of LA and the beach communities should try some seeds, or look for it when you’re out.

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18 Comments

  1. This is another April fools joke, right? I’m just across “town” from you and we have lots of miner’s lettuce, all winter. Admittedly, I seeded the first batch (5-8 years ago), and I allow some to self-sow each year, but it certainly does thrive here in L.A.

    Miner’s lettuce is a Calif native — name comes from “miner 49ers” who apparently survived on it as a green veggie. It is a delicious mild green that can become the “backbone” of a mixed salad bowl. The tender young leaves are delicious as cut-and-come again and the older “lily pads” can grow quite large (they’re tastier younger). The flowers are very odd, coming up through where the stem attaches to the pad, and they can put out an entire other second story pad at that point.

    Here near LAX airport miner’s lettuce grows abundantly for me, coming up with the winter rains and lasting in all the shady places in the yard. Sometimes it even volunteers inside of large pots. It is a tender and delightful green to grow.

  2. Thanks for the id! Spotted a very small clump of this in a neighbor’s yard (where the dogs like to lift a leg) and didn’t know what it was. But yes, absolutely. at 4500 feet in Sedona, Arizona

  3. I actually harvested some miner’s lettuce today as well! I’m an intern at a farm in Virginia – so pretty far east. I was harvesting a few leftover rows of winter lettuce that we want to turn into rows of something else, and lo and behold, miner’s lettuce was all over. Tossed it in with some fennel blossoms, and voila – gourmet salad mix!

  4. I’m just commenting so I can subscribe to other replies. I too would like to know how far east it grows, and how much cold it can tolerate. I suspect my place (Z6, PA) is way out of its comfort zone, but if I hear otherwise, I’d definitely try it.

  5. I’m in the Bay Area and a garden I maintain for a homeless shelter has it growing wild in the garden…. every were! We could feed all six shelters with what grows in this one garden. I have to say I’m surprised you are having trouble growing it. The Haven garden gets really hot in the summer and the miner’s lettuce does not seem phased by it… could be it’s just adapted to the area through the years.

  6. A buddy of mine in junior high used to live in Berkeley, and she said she and her older sisters would take a bowl and a bunch of forks and a bottle of salad dressing and go hike up around the parks and collect miner’s lettuce and when they had enough for a salad, they sit down where they were, make one, and eat it. This would have been back in the late 60′s- early 70′s.

  7. I live in central New York (zone 4b) and planted a couple rows of miner’s lettuce in my cold frame on 9/15/10. I can report that it survived the winter – including several -20 nights – with no trouble at all. Eliot Coleman recommends miner’s lettuce as one of his tried and true winter crops in Maine (zone 5).

  8. @Joanne: No joke. It really, truly doesn’t grow in my neighborhood. You catch sea breezes out where you live. I used to work in Culver City and know how much cooler it can be on that side of town. I imagine a few degrees would make all the difference. Actually, as I wrote this post, I wondered if it might be found in the coastal canyons. It’s just that I hardly ever go to the west side, so I have no foragers sense of the area.

    Kathy P.: Good to know it survives cold winters. My gut about it as a plant is that it will always prefer cold to heat. Kinda like its namesake. And I mean lettuce, not miners. ;)

    Everyone: Thanks for your geographical inputs!

  9. I live in monterey, and we have this stuff everywhere. Its even growing in the cracks in the driveway. I knew it was edible, but I’ve never actually tried it. I might have to now…

  10. I just got back from a backpacking trip in Death Valley and made more than a few salads from miners lettuce. Ate the whole plant–it was great. Only grew near streams and or in shade though.

  11. Better known as Winter Purslane in Europe for it’s likeness with the Common Purslane cultivar (Portulaca oleracea). In the Netherlands the weed is everywhere and it stands our frosty winters. We grow this for salad and when we sow in late summer we can harvest twice, around November and then again February/March before it goes into seed. Together with turnip tops and lamb’s lettuce it’s one of the first local leafy greens to appear on the markets each year!

  12. Too funny that it never occurred to me to think about the name, miner’s lettuce, and its obvious hint that you can eat it! Thanks for the eye-opener.

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