Miner’s lettuce is a cool season “weed” that grows in some Southern gardens. Like some other weeds that thrive in vegetable gardens, miner’s lettuce is also an edible wild plant.
After I finished my Butterfly presentation yesterday, a local garden-friend who came to the talk gave me some miner’s lettuce that she had dug up from her garden that morning. We both chuckled over the gift of weeds, since I had identified this one for her a couple of years ago.
The little plants had popped up “out of nowhere”, and every time she dug the plants up, more grew in their place.
The plants my gardening friend brought are showing only their early-growth leaves. These may not be the ones you are most familiar with. In books and on websites, the later, round leaves that have tiny, white flowers in the center are shown more often.
While my friend and I were admiring the tubful of healthy little plants, another gardener walked over to join us. Miner’s lettuce grows in her garden, too. She said that she tosses the leaves into the blender when she makes green smoothies.
I hadn’t heard of that way of serving the succulent little leaves, but the method certainly seems easy and speedy!
My usual source of information about edible wild plants, Euell Gibbon’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus (a classic!), did not provide information about this plant. Luckily, another edible wild plants book on my shelf, How to Prepare Common Wild Foods, by Darcy Williamson, offers plenty of recipes.
One of her recipes is for a wilted salad — the kind that uses hot bacon grease in the dressing. If you already have, in another cookbook, a wilted salad recipe that calls for lettuce, spinach, or a different green, you can substitute miner’s lettuce, if you have it, to make a similar salad. Williamson recipes for miner’s lettuce salads are complete with a “how to” for the dressing intended for each salad. Some of these look very good, and I am hoping to try them if the miner’s lettuce does well in my own yard.
Miner’s lettuce needs a moist, loose soil; it should become abundant if I find the right place for it. Even in an ideal location, miner’s lettuce will disappear for the summer. After the fall, as days begin to lengthen again in early winter, the plants should spring back to life, just like they do in my friend’s garden. I am looking forward to adding another edible wild plant to my yard!