Miner’s lettuce, or Indian Lettuce, is a world-class salad green with humble roots in our own Western bioregions. This all-star vegetable is a native food that has tender, succulent leaves that melt in your mouth and stay mild and sweet even when the plant is in flower. Enjoy the stems, leaves, and tiny white flowers of this lush edible groundcover in shady garden spaces or as Winter salad greens - raw or cooked! Miner’s lettuce is has a very high content of Vitamin C, A and other vitamins and minerals - hence the name: miners in the 1800s ate the plant to prevent scurvy. (Of course, Native Americans had been enjoying this wild crop for thousands of years prior.) In addition, it is very high in protein. In a study by the J Am Diet Association, Miner’s lettuce compared favorably with 21 other leafy vegetables - making it a great addition to any healthy diet. Eat your vegetables!
Over time, Miner’s Lettuce spreads into a lush green groundcover that is an attractive addition to shady garden areas or in empty spaces around existing shrubs or trees. The plant changes dynamically and grows quickly. Interestingly, leaves change shape and size as the plant matures: young lance-shaped leaves give way to adolescent heart shaped leaves, which then give way to mature rounded leaves (actually two leaves fused) on longer stems, each with a cluster of tiny white flowers emerging from the center. Plant stay low - never more than 1 foot tall.
Environment and Culture
Miner’s Lettuce is native to Western North America, finding a wild home in forest understories, thickets, and meadow edges. It thrives on moist soils, but can even find purchase in dry sandy areas. It’s native companions are varied, but include Ostrich Fern, Nettle, Woodland Strawberry, Pacific Waterleaf, and Thimble/Salmon berries. In the wild, the plants are grazed by small mammals and the seeds are eaten by birds. It is very low-maintenance, re-planting itself from seed without any assistance in favorable conditions (moist and shady). It is an annual plant in cold climates, and a short-lived perennial in warmer ones.
Harvest, Care, and Preparation
In mild climates, Miner’s Lettuce can be sown in the late Summer/early Fall for harvest all Winter long. It can also be planted in the Spring, to be harvested until the heat of the Summer (heat can make the leaves less tender and more bitter). During it’s growth, it can be cut back for harvest several times before being allowed to flower and set seed. Plant can be allowed to spread and form patches for larger harvests in subsequent years. Stems, leaves, and flowers are all edible, and can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach We recommend making a simple salad with the raw leaves and flowers, alone or mixed with other wild or traditional greens. They are tender, mild, and sweet. Alternatively, they can be added to pestos, sauces, soups or other dishes that called for cooked or steamed greens. Enjoy!
Native Range: Western States
USDA zones: 6-9
Ease of Care: Very Easy, once established
Deer Resistance: Low
Light Requirements: Part-Shade is best
Soil Type: Any, prefers well-drained with organic matter
Water Requirements: Any, prefers moist
Bearing Age: 60 days
Size at Maturity: 8-12 inches
Plant Spacing: 8-12 inches
Bloom Time: Late Spring - when temperatures rise
Harvest Time: Any time of year, depending on when sown