Tired of the same old salad? Want to WOW at a dinner party or brunch? Want to serve something unique and eat something really special? Well, put away your wallet and put on your rain boots: it’s time to go foraging. Back in season again, the best tasting lettuce in the Sacramento Valley is not available in stores. It’s free, it’s delicious, it’s out there, go get some!
Miner’s lettuce, rich in Vitamin C, was originally named for the 49ers, who ate it to prevent scurvy–but this doesn’t do it justice. This native plant isn’t mere survival food; its delicate flavor and bold appearance make it a culinary gem. For a true sensory experience, top the heart-shaped leaves and stems with fresh blackberries (sadly not in season, but available in stores), crumbled goat cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and a drizzle of pomegranate glaze (which is just concentrated pomegranate juice). This salad contains no sugar and no gluten but is packed with natural sweetness and antioxidants. This is a salad that could double as dessert! If following a Mediterranian diet, you should eat your salad last anyway, to promote digestion.
But don’t wait too long. The lettuce is in bloom right now, which means soon the heart-shaped leaves will start to fall off. Miner’s lettuce likes shady, damp places. Look for it near creeks and under oak trees. Check any open-space preserves, like parks or disc golf courses (my favorite hunting grounds for wild foods). Head to the squishy mud or artificial marshes where the water pools. Miner’s lettuce is sure to be there. It is even coming up in cracks in the sidewalk and asphalt around Sacramento. Plan to eat the lettuce the same day you gather it, as it’s very delicate and will wilt quickly. Give it a thorough wash and remember that the cups, leaves, and stems are all edible. Don’t pick more than you plan on eating (leave some to grow back next year) but definately choose an assortment of the younger tiny leaves and the larger fuller leaves. Happy hunting.