Winter Purslane Seeds (Claytonia perfoliata)
The picture above shows the crop of winter purslane that we grew recently. It's a fascinating plant that offers a tasty alternative to other salad leaves and, best of all, it's easy to grow.
You may have heard of it by another name: it is also know as miner's lettuce, spring beauty and Indian lettuce. It's latin name is Claytonia perfoliata and it originates from the western coast of North America. Historically, it was eaten by the Native Americans who found the leaves very versatile: they ate the leaves either raw or cooked and even used them to make tea.
It was during the time of the California Gold Rush that it became know as miner's lettuce; the miners were able to top up their vitamin c levels by eating the leaves and thus prevent scurvy.
It was probably introduced into Europe during the 18th century by a man named Archibald Menzies, who brought a specimen to Kew Gardens. It now grows wild throughout Western Europe.
One of the great things about winter purslane is that it offers a viable crop during the early winter months. Simply sow the seeds in the late summer or early autumn and they will provide delicious and nutritious leaves that can be harvested as a cut and come again.
The leaves themselves are fleshy and succulent. It's best to eat them when young, as the older leaves can become bitter. If possible, eat them as soon as you pick them.
It's not easy to describe the flavour, but some say winter purslane tastes similar to water chestnut or spinach. Like spinach, it can be boiled. Just be careful not to cook the leaves for too long since they can become rather slimy (okra eaters will know what I'm talking about!).
Also, winter purslane leaves make a great addition to a stir-fry and can even be used to make a soup. So, it really is a great ingredient to have at your disposal.
If you'd rather not eat the leaves, then it still makes an attractive addition to your garden. The plant produces tiny white flowers that nestle within the centre of the leaves.
It can spread fairly rapidly so it will need to be kept under control. It doesn't send down long roots though, so it's easily removed if necessary.
Winter purslane can grow as high as 40cm although this will depend on soil condition and other environmental factors. It generally prefers cool and damp conditions.
People who bought this item also bought: