Friday, April 15, 2016

Miner's Lettuce is Tasty and Free

Miner's Lettuce is Tasty and Free
I first saw miner's lettuce while I was taking pictures on Vineyard Drive across from the Turley Tasting Room in Templeton. It was early spring and it was along the site of the road under some oak trees. The shape of the plant was so unusual it aroused my curiosity. I finally identified it, but it was still a several years before I tasted it. It did not grow on my arid property, and when I went back to the Vineyard Drive location the next spring, the miner's lettuce had grown up around poison oak. I decided not to harvest it. Since then I have discovered that miner's lettuce is tasty and free when you can find it. 

The best place to find miner's lettuce on the Central Coast is in partial shade in a moist place. After finding it that first time, I didn't encounter it again until last year. I was exploring a back road in March and found it under and actually on a tree just off South Vine Street.

Miner's Lettuce is Tasty and Free
Miner's Lettuce Growing on and under a Tree, © B. Radisavljevic

On that day I did pick some. When I got home, I made a salad with some other greens I had, and it was tasty. Use it as you would any other lettuce.

Miner's lettuce got its name because miners used to eat it for its vitamin C content to prevent scurvy. Native Americans ate it raw or cooked, and made a tea of it to use as a laxative. The flavor of young miner's lettuce leaves is mild, unlike its cousin purslane, another edible weed that appears almost everywhere in my garden during the summer. You can find out more about purslane here. Older leaves of miner's lettuce can be cooked as you would cook spinach.

A few weeks ago while I was out walking I saw some miner's lettuce just outside my back neighbor's fence, along the street, in an uncultivated spot. It was growing with other weeds, and I think one of them was chickweed, also edible, that I have not learned to positively identify yet.

I know miner's lettuce and chickweed do often grow near each other, since they have the same requirements -- shade and moisture. I picked a lot of miner's lettuce and had a splendid salad that day. While lettuce in the market was sky high in price, I used free miners lettuce mixed with other wild edible plants growing in my own yard. Why go buy lettuce when miner's lettuce is tasty and free?

Miner's Lettuce is Tasty and Free
Miner's Lettuce Growing Near My Home © B. Radisavljevic

If you'd like to feast free on wild foods growing near you, one of the books below will help you stay safe by showing you how to  identify free food and avoid anything toxic. I personally own and use Feasting Free on Wild Edibles, but want to add some of the other books with color photos, such as the Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants by the same author.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it. The sharing buttons are just above the comment box at the end of this post. The photo below is especially designed for pinning.

Miner's Lettuce is Tasty and Free

This is my thirteenth post for the 2016 AtoZchallenge, a Blogging Challenge for the month of April, 2016. My theme is plants, since this is a gardening blog. Here are links to the other posts if you missed them.

A is for Apple Blossoms
B is for Bottlebrush
C is for Carnations
D is for Daisy
E is for Elderberry
F is for Flowers
G is for Gazania
Hollyhocks are Edible
Irises Are Garden Survivors
Jupiter's Beard: A Mystery Finally Solved
Kale for Lunch

1 comment:

aesta1 said...

Interesting to know the many things for free that we can forage. This is what one Vietnamese colleague told me once but I don't recognise the plants. The pictures here introduced me miner's lettuce so I'll be on the look out for some.

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