Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Last chance for Miner's Lettuce

Originally published in Oakland Local on April 12, 2011.
A bouquet of Miner's lettuce.

I've been chasing Miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) all spring. I've harvested it several times on hikes in the last few months, but kept forgetting to take a photo. 

Miner's lettuce is a great way to make your salad feel very fancy, and you'll find it on the menu of expensive restaurants that focus on local foods. But it's actually incredibly common if you know where to look - basically any area of patchy sunlight in the woods. Pastures interspersed along the trail are great places to collect bowls full of it.

Miner's lettuce supposedly got its picturesque name by saving gold miners in the Sierras from malnutrition after a long winter of hard tack and canned beans. Its leaves are a vibrant green and are initially heart shaped, although as they age they encircle the stem and send up cute white flowers from the center, as you can see from the photo.

It hasn't rained for a few weeks now, so I thought my window of opportunity had closed, but then I found out that my neighbor has it in her garden. I had no idea you could do that! You can order its seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, but I recommend you wait until next winter and get it in the ground in very early spring with the rains.

My neighbor was kind enough to let me come over and collect part of our dinner from the back corner of her garden. When you collect them, be careful not to crush the leaves because they're very delicate and are easily damaged. Bring a collecting bag if you're on a hike.

I used them as a bright green base for Salmon Sweet Potato Cakes and suddenly our dinner was miles more elegant than normal, besides being healthy and delicious.  I'll include the recipe for the cakes just for fun, since using Miner's lettuce is so simple, no recipe required.

Salmon and Sweet Potato Cakes
Courtesy of Francie Healey

2 large sweet potatoes with skins on, cubed
2 6-oz cans wild Alaskan salmon (boneless, skinless)
1/2 c. cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/3 c. parsley
1/4 tsp dried rosemary or 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
3 tbs ground flaxseed
3 eggs
3 tbs ghee, butter or olive oil
lemon wedges

Boil sweet potatoes until tender, drain and mash. Add drained salmon and remaining ingredients except lemons and oil. Mix well. Shape mixture into palm-sized patties.

Heat butter or oil over medium low heat. Add patties and cook about 3 minutes per side. Flip twice. Serve with lemon wedges. 

No comments:

Post a Comment