Foraging Miner’s Lettuce: Native Claytonia Candy Flower

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Easy to identify and abundant, miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) is one of the best wild salad greens. Also called candy flower, the leaves are crisp, and the flavor is mild and refreshing. Whether you are foraging miner’s lettuce to eat during a hike or bringing a bunch home to add to a salad for your family, you will surely enjoy this delicious native plant.

closeup of miners lettuce leaves and flowers

Miner’s Lettuce History

Miner’s lettuce is a perennial plant native to the western United States and Canada. It grows from British Columbia all the way down to northern California. Other common names are winter purslane, Indian lettuce, and candy flower. Miner’s lettuce is a traditional wild food of many Native Americans, and many gold rush miners ate the plant which gave the common name.

European explorers loved this plant and brought seeds home with them. Scottish Naturalist Archibald Menzies is credited with introducing miner’s lettuce to England in the late 1700’s. This plant has now spread across western Europe and has become naturalized.

Miner’s Lettuce Nutrition

Miner’s Lettuce is a great source of vitamin C and A. It also contains iron. A dinner-plate full (100 grams) of miner’s lettuce contains 33% of your daily vitamin C, 22% of your daily vitamin A, and 10% of your iron1.

Identifying Miner’s Lettuce

Miner’s Lettuce is a great edible plant because all the closely related plants are also edible. The leaves are very unique and easy to identify once you know what to look for. Foraging miner’s lettuce is fun and easy!

We are lucky enough to have miner’s lettuce growing in the forested portion of our property and my kids can easily identify it.

One of the best ways to identify miner’s lettuce is by looking at the leaves. When the plant is young, the leaves are heart-shaped, but as the plant grows, the leaves become cup shaped and wrap around the stem of the plant. The plant flowers with small white or slightly pink flowers in small clusters. When the plant dries out, the leaves turn a light red color.

closeup of miners lettuce leaves and flowers

Mine’s lettuce is usually a small plant with stems no longer than 12 inches.

Miner’s lettuce grows in the early spring when soil moisture is high. It grows in wet forested areas in moist soil. Its usually growing in areas that are shady. I forage miner’s lettuce in April and May.

closeup of miners lettuce leaves in a woman's hand

Eating Miner’s Lettuce

Miner’s lettuce tastes fresh and juicy. The entire upper portion of the plant is edible including the flowers! Similar to spinach or Romain lettuce with a mild refreshing taste. It is best eaten raw in a salad but can be cooked similar to spinach. Some chefs pay upwards of $20/pound for miner’s lettuce! Add it to your next salad for some unique American flair.

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  1. Schelstraete, Marc; Kennedy, Barbara. July 1980. Composition of miners lettuce (montia perfoliata). Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Volume 77, Issue 1, P21-25 ↩︎

7 Comments

  1. This is so neat! I am born and raised in Canada and never new this. I will be on the lookout to see we’re I can harvest some of this myself. 😀

  2. This is so cool! I’ve grown miners lettuce but didn’t know you could forage for it as well.

  3. I love miner’s lettuce. It has naturalised in my southern hemisphere garden (Tasmania, Australia) but does not become a pest. It dies down in our warmer months and comes back as winter begins (now). Thanks for sharing.

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