The purple-green plant growing in a rosette in the center of the photo is Siberian miner’s lettuce, also known as Siberian springbeauty, Claytonia sibirica. Like other wild edible plants in the purslane (Portulacaceae) family, it has succulent leaves that are mild in flavor and taste good raw.
Siberian miner’s lettuce is native to western North America and, as you may guess, to Siberia. Look for it in moist shady forest habitats. If you wander through Portland’s Forest Park, Tryon Creek State Park, or Lewis and Clark State Park right now, you will see it along the trailsides. A closely related species, Claytonia perfoliata, is common in urban neighborhoods.
All parts of the plant are edible. I have eaten the greens, but I would at some point like to dig up and cook the roots, because Thomas J. Elpel writes that they taste like “buttery potatoes,” and that sounds pretty great, although he says that it takes about an hour of work to get just a cup’s worth of roots, and that sounds less great.
Medicinally, Siberian miner’s lettuce has many documented uses.
* A cold infusion of the stems is used as an anti-dandruff hair rinse, and as an eye wash, by the Quileute people of the western coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.
* Skagit people of the northern Cascade range use an infusion of stems for sore throats.
* The Tlingit of British Columbia reportedly mixed the leaves with pitch and mountain hemlock bark to externally treat syphilis sores.
* The Songish of British Columbia reportedly soak the leaves and apply them to the forehead to treat headaches.
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