By Patricia Simpson
I know what you’re thinking, but the answer is no: “minor’s lettuce” is not the magic vegetable you’ve been looking for to feed your under-aged kids. But miner’s lettuce (also known as spring beauties) as seen in this observation (bit.ly/2GTxbSx) by Mark James is a native vegetable and one that was once sought after for its richness in vitamin C. At the time of the Gold Rush, miners did not have many green food options while roaming the western landscape, so when they came across the small leafy cups, they consumed them. A seasonal helping of miner’s lettuce could do wonders to curb the onset of scurvy, a disease resulting from lack of vitamin C.
Miner’s lettuce is said to taste similar to spinach and can be consumed with the stem and flower. Adventurous gardeners can add it to their menu. If you are not a gardener, don’t even think about a wild picking. You know how many dogs walk the trails and these crops for sure have been “compromised.”
Miner’s lettuce loves shady slopes which retain moisture during the day. In drier years, it can be hard to find, but this winter’s rain has brought a plethora of these aptly named spring beauties. So, take your time on the trail this spring and try to spot some miner’s lettuce. There are two common species in Mission Trails Regional Park that look almost identical: Claytonia parviflora and Claytonia perfoliata.
— Patricia Simpson is a trail guide at Mission Trails Regional Park. iNaturalist is an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature.