PHOTOS COURTESY OF KAT HIGH Kat High starts her spring foraging for miners lettuce in her own yard.
Spring seems to have come early to Topanga, 2021. Itâ€™s time to gather, rather than have Amazon deliver. Go with a song in your heart, donâ€™t gather close to a busy road, and give thanks when you gather. You can also start your own â€śgathering garden.â€ť
Hereâ€™s a sample of what is in my yard this Spring: Miners lettuce, stinging nettle, chickweed, nasturtiums, cattails, hummingbird sage, mallow (cheeseweed), and oxalis.
Claytonia perfoliate (miners lettuce) is high in vitamin C, beta carotene and protein. It is a tasty crispy green that can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked and added to soup or a side dish. It has a short gathering window. I am trying to figure a way to quickly parboil or blanch them, dry and freeze them for later. The seeds can be gathered and started indoors and are pretty hardy planted in the ground. It likes moist, shaded areas below 7,500-foot elevation. The name comes from gold mining days when the miners picked and ate the tender greens to prevent scurvy. The little saucer-shaped leaves, about an inch in diameter, are fairly mild and succulent and pair nicely with tangy goat cheese and crunchy walnuts.
Stinging Nettle Salad
6 cups fresh minerâ€™s lettuce or baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinaigrette or commercial dressing
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
Toast walnuts on a baking sheet in a 400-degree oven until they smell roasted, about 8 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent burning nut meats. Set aside. Arrange lettuce on four plates. Mix vinaigrette and lemon juice together and drizzle over lettuce.
Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on each plate; top with toasted walnuts.
Grind a little fresh pepper on each salad. Serves 4
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
The stinging nettle is a perennial herb which averages from 3- to 5-feet tall, with heart-shaped leaves in alternate pairs along a square-shaped stem. Both stem and leaves are covered with small, stiff hairs which inject a stinging fluid (formic acid) into exposed flesh on contact. Nettles should be gathered in early spring when the plants are 4 to 8 inches high. A pair of leather gloves will protect your hands from the stinging hairs. Heavy paper bags are preferred to plastic for holding collected nettles. Rich in vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium.