Spring Gathering

Miner’s lettuce. Photo by Kat High

Miner’s lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata, or patottii in Kumeyaay, and toowish popakwa in Luiseno, is a tasty crispy green, high in vitamin C, that can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked and added to soup, or a side dish. Miner’s lettuce has a very short gathering window, but I am trying to figure a way to quickly parboil or blanch them, dry and freeze them for later.

The seeds can be gathered and started indoors, and they are pretty hardy planted in the ground. It is an annual, so always leave a few to go to seed so you will have some come up every spring. A warning on gathering:  be sure the greens you gather are grown “organically”—without fertilizers or pesticides/herbicides. Also, too close to a road means exhaust pollution. Consider growing in your yard, away from traffic. Seeds can be obtained from Theodore Payne Foundation in Sunland.

Miner’s Lettuce Salad, with baby beets, beet greens, rapini, spring garlic, goat cheese

1 bunch miners lettuce

1 bunch of spring garlic

1 bunch baby beets, with greens attached

10 sage leaves (cooking variety), thinly sliced across leaf

1 bunch of rapini

olive oil

2 pinches of sugar

butter

lemon juice

Cut beets from the beet greens. Put beets in a deep-sided saute pan and fill with enough water to cover the beets. Add sugar to the water, along with a small knob of butter. Put a lid on the pan and boil. Remove the lid slightly, so that some steam can release and water can reduce.

Cooking time depends upon the size of the beets; with small ones like this it will be about 15-20 minutes. They are cooked when you can just push a knife through one easily. The idea here is that they are just cooked through when you have almost no liquid in the pan—but enough for a glaze. If they are cooked before a lot of water is reduced, remove the beets from the liquid, reduce it to a glaze, then put them back in. If you need to add more water, do so.

Snip the miner’s lettuce stalks about 1/2 inch from the leaves and discard stalks.

When the beets are cooked, allow them to cool and rub with a paper towel to peel. Toss them back into the glaze.

Cut the beet greens across the leaf into thin strips (1/2 inch wide). Do the same for the rapini leaf. Trim off any excess stem. Slice the spring garlic diagonally across the stalk, discarding the dark green section.

In a large pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. When pretty hot, toss in half of the garlic and half of the sage leaves. Cook for 30 seconds, then toss in beet greens. Gently toss these in the butter/oil, and allow to wilt. This will only take a couple of minutes. When they are just wilted, remove them from the pan. Wipe the pan out.

Add another tablespoon of oil and butter to the pan. When hot, toss in the rest of the sage and garlic. Again, cook for 30 seconds. Toss in the rapini leaves. Cook until just wilted. This will cook through much faster, maybe 30 seconds.

To compose the dish put a small pile of the beet greens in the center of a plate. Top this with the rapini greens. On top of this put a pretty little pile of the miner’s lettuce. Scatter the beets throughout the dish. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the salad. This will help brighten and lift the flavors.

Kat High gathering Miner’s lettuce in her backyard. Photo courtesy of Kat High
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