The Hunger Greens

Miner’s lettuce (Montia perfoliata)
Miner’s lettuce (Montia perfoliata)

Montia perfoliata

The forest stretches out for miles all around you. You find a large redwood tree that has been hollowed out at the base by ancient fires to sleep in tonight so you can stay out of the wind and avoid the fog dripping down out of the canopy. You take your chances drinking from a small creek because you are so thirsty. You are incredibly hungry too, but there is no In N’ Out burger in sight…

This morning you ate the few ripe huckleberries on the shrubs beneath the redwoods, but you are still hungry. You venture out deeper into the forest and then you see a patch of green that makes you drop to your knees! You’ve finally found what you’ve been looking for, the delicious Miner’s lettuce (Montia perfoliata). The round fleshy leaves surround a spike of tiny white flowers. You begin to crunch happily on the crisp foliage and you realize that you might just make it after all.

Miner’s lettuce is an edible plant that grows in moist habitats throughout California and other regions of Western North America. It is a lovely herb that grows in patches throughout the redwood forest and is one that might just keep your hunger at bay if you ever find yourself having your own “survivor” moment. With a flavor like mild spinach, I’m always pleased to see it growing in the redwood forest just in case I ever need it.

About the author

Emily Burns, the League’s former Director of Science, led the research program that includes the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. She holds a PhD in Integrative Biology on the impacts of fog on coast redwood forest flora from the University of California, Berkeley.

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