3 of a Kind: Miner’s Lettuce

A wild green with a fascinating past is showing up as an elegant garnish at restaurants around the country.

3 of a Kind checks out three places across the country to try something cool, new and delicious.

That tender green commonly known as miner’s lettuce has a fascinating past that belies its delicate appearance. Though its scientific name is Claytonia perfoliata, the edible plant eventually earned its curious nickname because of its popularity among the Gold Rush miners who ate it to prevent scurvy. Today this North American native wild green has gone from functional to fashionable and is often found in salads or elegant garnishes. Since it’s not grown commercially, chefs rely on foragers to procure these pretty leaves, which come in a variety of shapes.

Lamb, Kale, Parsley Root, Miner’s Lettuce at Grace, Chicago

Grace has garnered a stellar reputation in Chicago and beyond, with a kitchen helmed by recent James Beard Foundation winner Curtis Duffy. The chef-owner has divided Grace’s menu into two tasting menus: Flora and Fauna. And though the nine-course menus change frequently, foraged greens are commonly used. Miner’s lettuce in particular is found garnishing lighter dishes such as bigeye tuna with caviar and coconut, as well as earthier dishes like lamb.

Saffron Chitarra with Fresh-Caught Dungeness Crab, Confit Fennel and Lemon at Navio, Half Moon Bay, Calif.

At Navio, the Ritz-Carlton’s signature seafood restaurant in Half Moon Bay, Chef Jason Pringle makes his own saffron-infused pasta and tops it with late-season Dungeness crab. Like the crab, the miner’s lettuce is a local ingredient. The tender green complements the dish’s bright confit, lending both a pop of color and an added tinge of lemon to the plate.

Venison Tartare with House Mustard at Eden Hill, Seattle

At Eden Hill, diners can expect both the seasonal and the avant-garde. In addition to the menu of small plates, you’ll find a five-course chef’s tasting menu. Miner’s lettuce is a favorite of Chef Max Petty, who incorporates it into many of the restaurant’s dishes. "It's the best wild green available, especially on our side of the United States," Petty says. "It's crunchy and, even with flowers, it has a neutral flavor that works with almost any application. Plus, it's beautiful." Miner’s lettuce makes an appearance in Eden Hill’s venison tartare, which also features pickled blueberry, burnt onion ash, chive blossom and purple potato chips dusted with fennel sugar.

Photos courtesy of Grace, Navio and Eden Hill 
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