Miner’s lettuce, also known as winter purslane, spring beauty or Indian lettuce, has the botanical name of Claytonia perfoliata and is native to North America where it was an important food source for gold miners. With its high vitamin C content and easy accessibility miner’s lettuce was an important food in the prevention of scurvy, a very real danger for the isolated gold miners.
It is reputed to have come to New Zealand with the early Chinese gold miners and became naturalised in many areas.
The flavour of miner’s lettuce is like a sweeter cross of lettuce and spinach. This pleasant tasting green is considered by many vegetarians to be a valuable in their diet as it is a source of omega-3 fats and, unlike many other greens the larger, older leaves do not become bitter with age.
If you find miner’s lettuce in the wild or grow it in your garden whole plants can be harvested or individual leaves – miner’s lettuce is a pick and come again crop so if only a small quantity is required just harvest what is needed.
If harvesting in the wild, harvest individual leaves and do not over harvest to ensure there is a crop in the future.
Availability: Miner’s lettuce is available from The Chef’s Garden @ Epicurean during the winter months.
STORING & PREPARING
Storage: Place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Preparing: Pinch the base of the stem between your thumb and index finger.
EASY WAYS TO USE MINERS LETTUCE
- Miner’s Lettuce Salad: Pick 2 cups miner’s lettuce leaves. Wash and drain well. Place lettuce in a salad bowl. Cook 2 bacon rashers until crisp, then crumble. Add ¼ thinly sliced red onion and bacon to bowl with lettuce. In a small jug, whisk together 2 tbsp olive and 1 tbsp raw organic apple cider vinegar. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to coat leaves. Scatter with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately. Serves 4
- Cooked Miner’s Lettuce: Boil in a little water, steam or microwave until leaves just start to wilt. Also delicious cooked with spinach leaves or add to stir-fries or pasta dishes at the end of cooking.
- Roast Vegetable Pasta with Miner’s Lettuce: Place about 1kg of chopped vegetables in large bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, tip onto a baking tray and roast at 200°C for 45-60 minutes or until vegetables are browned and tender. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil, add 500g pasta of your choice and cook pasta according to packet directions. Drain pasta and place in a large serving bowl, add vegetables and 2-3 handfuls of miner’s lettuce and toss to combine. Scatter with grated Parmesan cheese and serve. Serves 4-6
- Sorrel & Miner’s Lettuce Pesto: Place 1 cup raw almonds in a food processor and pulse to chop. Add 1 large bunch sorrel and 3 cloves chopped garlic and pulse to bring everything together. Add the leaves of one plant of miner’s lettuce, drizzle with some olive oil and pulse again to combine. With machine running, drizzle in olive oil as required to make a pesto of desired consistency. Turn pesto into a bowl, add ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, mix to combine and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Store in a clean jar in the refrigerator. Some of the delicious ways to use this pesto are: spread on prepared pizza base before adding toppings; toss through pasta, rice or vegetables; use as a spread on sandwiches; as a topping for soup; or as dip.
- Fruity Miner’s Lettuce Smoothie: A great way to add greens to your family’s diet. Place a couple of handfuls of miner’s lettuce leaves, 1 ripe pear, 1 peeled, ripe banana, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1 cup natural yogurt and ½ cup milk in a blender and process until smooth. Sweeten with a little raw honey, if desired. Makes 2 smoothies