I was out on a run a week or so ago, in unusually balmy weather for January, when I saw a sight that made me stop cold. I stared at the ground, making the other people in the park think I was crazy, I’m sure. It couldn’t be, my mind thought, but by golly it was!!! Miner’s Lettuce, the king of wild greens, was growing in a HUGE patch underneath a conifer tree. I knew I would be writing this post sometime this spring as Miner’s Lettuce is plentiful and an easy plant to identify for beginning foragers, but I never expected to see it so early. Regardless, here we go foraging for Miner’s Lettuce!
Foraging for Miner’s Lettuce
Miner’s Lettuce is a wonderful green and seems to grow almost everywhere, at least here on the west coast where it’s native. In fact, it gets it’s name from the California gold miner’s who ate it to keep the scurvy away.
What a nice patch of Miner’s Lettuce this is!!! If you haven’t noticed, I’ve referenced scurvy in GFCF on more than one occasion (sauerkraut and rose hips), and while I do think of it as a bit comical, scurvy really was a big deal back in the day. Scurvy is a disease caused by lack of vitamin C in the diet, which in this day and age is really hard to get (although I did read that a college student who lived only on ramen and saltines got it…). These bits of wild greens were really necessary for survival back when we didn’t have conveniently triple washed and bagged salad greens in the grocery store.
And honestly, I still think these wild greens are just as important to us today. They are super healthy, and nothing is as satisfying as picking your own wild greens and then making a salad.
If you want to learn more about the edible and medicinal weeds that surround us and how to use them, check out my eBook: Wildcrafting Weeds: 20 Easy to Forage Edible and Medicinal Plants (that might be growing in your backyard)!
Gather & Root Online Foraging Course
My online foraging course is a great way to learn about wild edible and medicinal plants! Sign up to join the waiting list for the gather + root online foraging course here so that you are the first to know when it opens for enrollment.
How to Identify Miner’s Lettuce
The best part about foraging for Miner’s Lettuce? It grows plentifully and is really easy to identify. It has a mostly round, almost lily pad looking leaf, which can range from 1 to 6 inches across (I’ve seen some huge ones in the central CA coast) and has either a little white or pink flower right in the middle. It’s pretty unmistakeable once you’ve seen it!
It prefers cool, damp and shady areas and (usually!) doesn’t come out until early spring. Besides eating it in salads, it can be cooked up like spinach and used in the same way. It is great sauteed with eggs!
An early spring salad is classic, however. Add a few homegrown sprouts and a fresh radish from the garden (or CSA box) on the side and you have the perfect start to any meal, wild style.
Eager to do more spring foraging? We have over 20 tasty plants you can forage for in the spring including other greens besides miner’s lettuce such as chickweed, wild violets, purple dead nettle, and stinging nettle!
MARILYN MCCOY says
Hi Colleen, Just wondering if flower buds can be eaten as well.
We will soon be moving to Oregon and look forward to foraging and exploring nature there.
Vicki johnson says
I live near Centralia, Washington and have this growing all over, especially under the first trees. The horses don’t eat it, and slugs don’t seem to bother it, but the name alone indicates it is edible. I think I will try some cooked like spinach with vinegar
Sprinkled on top.
Ila Addis says
In Trinidad we have this growing! It was is considered a weed cause it has roots like a vine that just spread all over. What I want to know, is it still an edible miner’s lettuce if there is no flower in the middle? The one I have has no flower.
Grow Forage Cook Ferment says
It doesn’t always have a flower in the middle, but please double check with a local guide book to make sure that what you have is in fact miner’s lettuce.
I live in east tenn and I have a huge patch in my back yard .
Rebecca Middlebrooks says
Miners lettuce will probably be about as difficult for me to find (not just recognize) as dandelions are. The “yard birds” get all the good stuff first :-/ but I’ll certainly be looking for it where I’ve started an orchard at 8-)
Colin McGee says
Does this only grow in the West? Or is it also in other parts of the USA? Thanks.
Colleen @ Grow For Cook Ferm says
It’s native to the Western states, but has been introduced in other areas of the US and Europe. It is very common in California and Oregon, but it may be much harder to find in other areas. Good luck!
Colin McGee says
Hi what’s the purpose in health reasons for this plant
Grow Forage Cook Ferment says
Hi, Andrea! Miner’s lettuce contains lots of vitamin C and A.
Nicole @Little Blog on the Homestead says
This is so cool! It’s amazing the things you can find when you know what to look for! Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop!
Scurvy comes up a lot in my family, too, when talking about nutrition… Mostly its used as a wildcard when my boys are trying to negotiate for junk food (last time it was a speach advocating for siracha sauce as an anti-scurvy agent).
Your pictures are divine ;)
Haha, that’s hilarious! And thank you!
Dawn @OhSweetMercy says
This is very interesting! I’ve never heard of or seen Miner’s Lettuce (but then I haven’t been looking for it, either). I’m going to keep my eye out for it this spring. Thanks for linking up to the From The Farm blog hop, too. I chose it as my favorite and it will be featured in Friday’s hop this week (2-27-15).
Awesome, thank you! It’s pretty common, at least on the west coast, and tasty too! Keep your eye out…
I did not know what this was until now. Apparently I hit the mother load and have enough miners lettuce in my forest to feed a small country
I’m very excited to try it.
Thank you for the information.
How about in Mo?
I think I see some chickweed under there too :) I like to graze on that since there’s a ton in my area.
Joanne Greer says
I see this plant everywhere in my area. I’m up for trying it. Thanks for the info. Enjoying the blog.
Joyce @ It's Your Life says
Great post I never heard of this wondering if it grows here in Louisiana. Followed you here from the HomeAcre Hop would love for you to share on Real Food Fridays.
girl after my own heart! Today I am eating kale, collards and turnip greens from my yard. I didn’t know about miners lettuce. I will watch for it. I noticed a lot of dandelions coming up. I will try some of those also. Love your blog.
Thanks! You’re lucky to be able to grow all through winter where you are! Once we get dandelions coming up here I’m going to try my hand at making dandelion wine…
Robin jozovich says
I have seen this, but did not know it was edible! good to know…I think your pictures are great!