Latin name: Claytonia perfoliata (syn. Montia perfoliata) It's common name "Miner's Lettuce" was given to it because miner's used to eat it as salad greens. It's an annual herb, and a dicot, which means (like a green pea) its seed has only one "storage compartment," or cotyledon. Some say it is native to California, but "also is found" outside of the state. One source says that it's a native of British Columbia, but other websites show it growing in abundance out in the wild as far north as Minnesota. Yet another site calls it an "eastern-North American wild flower." My husband, who is always thinking about and planning for the future, planted some Miner's Lettuce in a pot with garlic in our back yard. It's been back there for a few years, and I haven't paid any attention to it until this morning for some reason. It's also called Indian Lettuce and Winter Purslane. It has a round, disk-like, somewhat fleshy leaf through which the stem grows. A small, white, five-petaled flower grows on the stem coming through the leaf. I actually tasted some of our little clump, and my taste buds recognized the taste as very similar to raw spinach. I really liked it. Since it's reputed to be full of vitamin A and C and some trace minerals, I think I'll add some to our diet until it goes to seed. We'll have to spread this little tidbit around! Here's a nice little video describing this plant, harvesting technique, and a suggestion to add it to "green" smoothies. I think I'll be adding some to salads and sandwiches. Our little clump has small leaves, but other pictures and videos I've seen on the web show plants with much larger leaves. I suppose they grow larger out in the wild where they have more room to spread out.
This plant contains nitrates/nitrites which could be toxic if you eat too much. However, this is more of a problem for grazing ruminants (cattle) than for humans. I'd still not give it to pregnant or lactating mothers, or young children.
Really cool blog with videos embedded about a couple up in Minnesota who decided to eat only wild foods for a month.