It might sound like a trash metal band but Claytonia (also called Winter Pursulane 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.
Claytonia is a succulent, almost-meaty salad green that 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 as a winter-hardy green, providing us with winter greens from October or November right up until April of the following year.
We sow claytonia in module trays in August and September (with 4-5 seeds per module tray). After sowing, keep it well watered. The seeds will germinate rapidly.
After 2-3 weeks, carefully plant out each little clump of seedlings in to soil, 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).
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.
You will not see varieties of Claytonia as such.
It’s a problem free plant, one would almost say fool proof. We’ve jinxed it now, haven’t we?