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What To Eat Now : Miner’s Lettuce

By Marcus Samuelsson | April 24, 2012

Photo: Dawn Endico

These days, we’re all green with envy over the different ways to spice up your vegetable routine. Gone are the days of watery iceberg lettuce and plain romaine hearts–who needs those when you’ve got peppery arugula at the local market and spinach leaves to plant in your garden?

With everyone “going green,” we want to introduce you to one of our favorite ingredients right now: miner’s lettuce. We’re so excited about miner’s lettuce that it’s even in one of Red Rooster’s new spring dishes, the Grilled Pork Loin. Named after the California gold rush in the 1850s,  the gold miners ate this abundant plant that prevented scurvy, an illness caused by a vitamin C deficiency. The small, delicate lettuce leaves are full of antioxidants, especially rich in vitamin A & C. A recent study also revealed that about 100 grams of miner’s lettuce contain 1/3 of your daily requirement of vitamin C, 22 percent of vitamin A and 10 percent of iron.

Miner’s lettuce, or Claytonia Perfoliata is often found growing along the California coast and Western mountain regions, however miner’s lettuce seeds are sold practically everywhere. Additionally, you should be able to find miner’s lettuce at most local farmers markets. Though it’s perhaps not as easily accessible as spinach, arugula or kale, miner’s lettuce is a delicate green that is petite in appearance but just the opposite in taste.

Miner’s lettuce has a freshly green and grassy taste with a small peppery bite towards the end. The shape of the leaves are a cross between watercress and spinach, without tasting the bitterness you sometimes get from the latter. As the plant itself matures, it puts up a single flower stalk that bears a tiny white flower. As if the distinctive plant couldn’t get any cooler, the leaves, flowers and stems are all edible. Even after flowering, the flavor stays tender and sweet without wilting.

While miner’s lettuce can undoubtedly shine in a salad dressed in a light mustard or lemon vinaigrette, why not shake things up and try miner lettuce in a stir fry or in a fruit smoothie? As we talked about earlier, miner’s lettuce would also be a tasty green to juice! For the savory route, miner’s lettuce would be a fantastic replacement for spinach when making your own noodles or even used in place of arugula for a different take on pesto. For a salad, toss some toasted breadcrumbs, a few crumbles of goat cheese, sliced grapefruit or even pumpkin seeds for an interesting contrast on a traditional bowl of lettuce.

Or you can just come in and try it at Red Rooster Harlem. We heard it pairs well with our Rooster Punch.

Have you tried miner’s lettuce before?

Photo:  Dawn Endico

For more ingredient close-ups, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

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