Winter Purslane (Miners Lettuce) and Mache (Corn Salad)

I was doing some research on Winter Purslane and Mache for including them in my cold frame for next fall/winter gardening and found a seed company in (of all places) New Mexico.  It is called www.gourmetseed.com and hails out of Tatum, NM and you can purchase these items and more from them.  Mache is pretty common but I haven’t heard about Purslane (except the wild kind that grows here). So let me talk a little about these two winter crops that have been grown in Europe for centuries.

Mache (French Corn Salad)-picture from gourmetseed.com

Mache-(Valerianella locusta)

This gourmet green is also known as corn salad and lamb’s lettuce. It has been cultivated from France since the 17th century. Mache was named because it’s leaf resembles the shape and size of a lamb’s tongue!  It is one of the few greens that can handle our winters (like spinach). It grows in a rosette if you plant individually but most just broadcast the seeds (like you would for mesclun) in an area to make a carpet of leaves as they are very small. Growing low to the ground, it is harder to harvest but it has a nutty, sweet flavor worth the effort. To harvest it, just take a knife and cut it off below the leaf level being careful not to injure the delicate leaves and wash well. You can eat it alone or put it in with other salad greens but use a light vinaigrette or even lemon juice and a little oil-it is too delicate for heavy dressings. They say you can steam it like spinach but it is too small for me to do that. I grew this many years ago under row cover in raised boxes and it did well but grew very slow in our winter but when Spring came it was ready and I went out one day only to find the chickens had escaped and raided the garden and they ate all but a few leaves of my Mache! The few leaves left tasted wonderful so I hope they enjoyed it! It like colder weather so I may try again this early spring as it takes 6-12 weeks till harvest but much longer if it goes into winter. Mache doesn’t like to be warm. Maybe I’ll try it when I plant more spinach in early March and again next fall.

Winter Purslane (Miner's Lettuce)--picture from gourmetseed.com

Winter-Purslane-(Montia perfoliata)

This is not to be confused with the purslane weed that grows wild in New Mexico and throughout the U.S. I will write the next post on that one (Portulaca oleracea) because it is interesting too but for now I want to focus on this variety. This winter green is also known as Miner’s Lettuce or Indian Lettuce and is rich in Vitamin C. It was eaten by early miners to avoid Scurvy. This wonderful wild green is used in Germany and other European countries for it’s tender young leaves. It is used as an addition to mesclun and other salads or steamed like spinach. You pick the leaves when they are young and tender. Most people plant this in fall because it handles the winter so well. I think I will try this in my cold frame next fall. I haven’t done a cold frame in years until this year, but am enjoying seeing the spinach, oakleaf lettuce and chard in it. It’s nice seeing something green in the dead of winter and hopefully if they survive this winter, I will get an early crop of some wonderful greens and now that I’m excited again about fall/winter gardening, I will definitely plant some Mache and Purslane next year. You might consider it too.

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