A really useful, hardy, heart-shaped winter salad green...
It might sound like a trash metal band but Claytonia (also called Winter Purslane or miners lettuce) is in fact a really useful, hardy, heart-shaped winter salad green that can be used to bulk up winter salads and stirfries. It was called Miner’s Lettuce after the Goldrush miners who valued its high vitamin C content to ward off scurvy. According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100 grams of claytonia contains a third of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, 22 percent of the Vitamin A, and 10 percent of the iron. So this little leaf packs a nutritional punch.
Claytonia is succulent and almost-meaty to eat. It will also withstand cooking (so is excellent as an alternative to spinach) and is very easy to grow. Though claytonia will grow in the spring/summer, it’s real value is in providing us with winter greens from October or November right up until April of the following year.
Sowing We sow claytonia in module trays in August and September (with 4-5 seeds per module). After sowing, keep it well watered. The seeds will germinate rapidly.
Growing After 2-3 weeks, carefully plant out each little clump of seedlings in to soil either in the polytunnel or outside, allowing 7-10cm between plants. Claytonia prefers cooler temperatures which is why it is ideal for autumn sowing, and it will tolerate cold winter temperatures (although it might need to be covered with a fleece or cloche during very frosty weather if grown outside). Make sure to keep it well watered if you are growing it under cover, or if you get a very dry spell outside (unlikely in the winter).
Harvesting Cut using a scissors, leaving a few centimeters of the base of the plant in place – you will get at least 4-5 cuts off each plant over the winter. Claytonia deteriorates quickly once picked, which is why you will almost never see it available to buy commercially – it will however keep in the fridge for a few days. The leaves are at their tastiest when young and tender. The smaller leaves are great in salads, while larger ones can be cooked (throw in to a stir fry at the last minute or boil briefly like spinach).
Recommended Varieties You will not see varieties of Claytonia as such.
Problems It’s a problem free plant. One could almost say fool proof. We’ve jinxed it now, haven’t we?
Claytonia will self-seed easily which you may or may not want – if you don’t want it to see everywhere, pull up the plants before they go to seed in spring. I’ve seen Claytonia used as a self-seeding ground cover in woodland areas.
Claytonia is also one of those rare plants that will do well in partial shade, so it’s ideal for a shady part of your garden.