Move Over Spinach, Native Miner’s Lettuce is Here

| 3/2/2017 10:18:00 AM

Tags: edible forestry, food forestry, native plants, miners lettuce, food foraging, California, Joshua Burman Thayer,


A recent day off found me wandering the oak woodlands of the east side of Mount Diablo in the rain. As I forged into Mitchell Canyon, I stopped to admire the rolling clouds upon the ridge. I then looked down to find myself standing in an ankle-deep patch of Claytonia perfoliata, otherwise known in these parts of Northern California as Miner’s Lettuce.

As I chewed a leaf of this mildly sour edible native plant, I was reminded of the richness of spinach. Later on, as I drove home through the hypnotic driving rain, I was reminded that this appreciation and renewed focus on Claytonia perfoliata, had occurred in, of all places, Clayton, Calif.

“Ah,” I mused, “now the township’s name makes all the more sense.”

Here in Northern California, I hear both clients and farmers alike complain about the “fussiness” of growing spinach. Though a prized edible green, it is a finicky performer which can often lead to marginal results and under-productive garden real estate. Move over spinach, because an old favorite is back in town, for now is the time to seed and grow Miner’s lettuce.

Seeded in the cool, wet season, Miners Lettuce will grow gangbusters. Seeding it directly in a patch, it can grow bio-intensively, meaning that the growing margins can touch one another without causing sickness. Conversely, it has been a rare patch of spinach that has grown well wall to wall in a seeded area.

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