grow miner's lettuce!

Growing Miner’s Lettuce – A Fantastic Native Wild Vegetable

Miner’s lettuce, also known as claytonia, is a fantastic wild vegetable that can be grown in a traditional vegetable garden. Growing miner’s lettuce provides a great food source for your family, while also supporting local wildlife. Ready to get started? Keep reading to learn more about this great wild vegetable.

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Miner’s lettuce is a perennial vegetable native to much of the western United States and Canada. It has become naturalized in Europe because of its use as a vegetable. But if you live in the area where it’s native, this is a fantastic native wild vegetable that you can easily grow on your wild homestead.

Packed with vitamin C, this unassuming nutritional powerhouse helped prevent scurvy among miners during the California gold rush.

What I love about miner’s lettuce is that it has a very mild flavor, and it can be used as the main green in a salad. But you can also use it on sandwiches and cook it like spinach. With a slight crunch to it, this wild vegetable will make a great addition to your wild homestead!

Miner’s lettuce was brought to Europe back in 1794, and it’s been grown there as a food crop ever since. This says a lot about how easy it is to eat and cook with miner’s lettuce!

Let’s dive into how to grow this fantastic green! But before we do, make sure you grab your free and easy-to-print cheat-sheet all about growing wild native vegetables. This will help you get started with miner’s lettuce, which is covered in the cheat-sheet.

Basics of Growing Miner’s Lettuce

Miner's lettuce is a great native wild vegetable!

I salvaged this bunch of miner’s lettuce from along a trail where it would likely get stepped on. If you live where this plant is found naturally, you will likely find it growing out in your local forests.

You can grow miner’s lettuce in any vegetable garden without any real issues. It can be grown as an annual in most climates, and as a perennial in USDA zones 6-9. But in hot locations in zones 8 and 9, it will likely die back in the heat of the summer.

But what makes miner’s lettuce an amazing choice for your wild homestead is that this fantastic wild native vegetable is very shade tolerant. It naturally grows in the shade of dense forests, but it also does fine in semi-shade.

Wild Tip

The entire plant is edible, and the stems, leaves and flowers are normally harvested together. You can pinch the stems to break them—there will be a leaf (actually 2 leaves fused together) and sometimes a flower attached to each stem.

If you put miner’s lettuce out in the full sun of an average vegetable garden it will likely struggle in the summer heat and produce smaller and sometimes bitter leaves.

But in the shade, it will provide an abundant crop year after year with nice, large, delicious leaves.

You likely have some shady areas along your wild homestead that would be perfect for this fantastic crop. A food forest is a great place to plant miner’s lettuce!

Miner’s lettuce grows well from seed, but its seeds are very small and black, making them challenging to see. But you can thin them as they come up without too much trouble.

It will likely spread from seed, too, but I find this wild vegetable to be unobtrusive, and it doesn’t tend to push out other plants. Miner’s lettuce just slowly spreads, finding room between other plants.

Info on Miner's Lettuce

  • First Harvest: 1st year
  • USDA Climate Zone: 6-9
  • Sunlight Requirement: partial shade to shade
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 8 inches high and wide
  • Purchase: seeds
  • Note: Great in a shade garden - old leaves can turn bitter especially in full sun. Will self-seed as an annual in colder climates or very hot climates.

Getting Started with This Amazing Wild Vegetable

Eat miner's lettuce in a salad!

I love going around in the spring and harvesting miner’s lettuce for my spring salads. But it's also a fantastic winter green in the warmer climate zones where this plant is found—or under cover in colder climates.

Finding native plants, and particularly edible ones, can be a challenge. But for those of us living in a temperate climate, miner’s lettuce is a great option. It’s native or naturalized to many of these regions.

To get started, you can sow the seed just like you would lettuce or spinach in the spring. You can either plant them in your garden or in a nice shady area, say, under a fruit tree.

Wild Tip

Seeds for miner’s lettuce are fairly easy to find in seed catalogs, but here are a few options to get you started:

While you can likely just broadcast the seed and mimic what happens in nature, you will get better results by taking some time to prepare an area of bare ground—just like you would for any vegetable.

Plant early—as much as 4 weeks before your last frost, or even in early fall.

Miner’s lettuce is not fussy, and it will likely do great!

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started with miner’s lettuce!

And don’t forget to grab your free and easy-to-print cheat-sheet all about getting started with wild native vegetables, including miner’s lettuce!


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Daron

Daron is a restoration ecologist, a lifelong gardener, and the founder of Wild Homesteading. He manages the restoration program for a local non-profit, and he applies restoration and sustainable gardening techniques on his family’s own wild homestead. He loves sharing the joy of growing food with his two beautiful children. In addition, to running this site Daron manages the restoration program for a local non-profit and is a husband to an amazing wife who makes this site and the homestead possible and daddy to 2 perfect kids.

  • Diane says:

    I am so very glad to hear that miner’s lettuce does so well in the shade. I’m in zone 8a. I do have wooded areas with shade that I doubt I will ever be able to open up to sunlight. A neighbor planted some cannas in her shaded area, and I was amazed they grew up so tall and lush and tropical. They never flower, but they look fantastic as greenery. I was considering dealing with my shady areas by doing that, too. But knowing I can plant a perennial salad veggie instead is downright exciting! Thanks!

    • Daron says:

      Yeah, I love miner’s lettuce for shady areas. Out in wild areas here it grows under full canopy shade in the forests. It will grow a bit slower in full shade compared to semi-shade but it does not need a lot of light to grow well. In hot summer areas it will behave more like an annual–it does this in California. But it self-seeds easily so it should do fine even if your summers are hot. Good luck with your miner’s lettuce!

  • Daron, thanks for this post. I have wanted to get Miner’s Lettuce started in a large shady spot on the NW side of my property and tried from seed this past late winter. I may have started too late because pill bugs did in my seeds. They do the same to most other lettuce seeds in my 7a zone. Have you had that issue at all? Do you think planting earlier–before the bug population has a chance to soar–would do the trick? Thanks for any advice you have for this novice!

    • Daron says:

      Yeah, pill bugs and slugs can be an issue with miner’s lettuce. Earlier could work–miner’s lettuce grows in fairly cool conditions. Here in western WA it’s active all winter long. So you really can’t sow the seeds too early. If it’s too cold they seeds will just wait until the conditions improve. I’m getting ready to spread some seeds out on some of my hedgerows. I don’t expect them to germinate yet but I want to get an early start on them.

      I’m not sure where you are located but if you can find any plants growing wild you could try salvaging them. Once the plants get bigger they don’t tend to have a lot of pest issues. I’m doing this too in addition to spreading seeds. I’m hoping the salvaged plants will produce seed and spread on their own.

      You could also try sowing seeds in late August or early September depending on your climate. Basically the same time you would sow lettuce seeds for a fall/winter crop. These might be able to grow and get going before winter. As long as your area does not get too cold the plants should overwinter fine. That might be another way to avoid some of the pests.

      Good luck!

  • Margy says:

    I grew up near Los Angeles in a very urban environment. Yet, there was Miner’s Lettuce growing in the grassy playing field surrounding my junior high school. The grass was mostly weeds that were mowed periodically but it would regrow quickly. On my way home I would pick a few to munch along the way. Thanks for the memory. – Margy

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