Five years ago we were living in Gibsons, British Columbia. Renting someone else's home and tending someone else's garden. During our time there I got hooked on some local salad greens that included a rather unusual looking plant. I wasn't sure what it was but I remember thinking - one day I'm going to grow that in my own garden.
It wasn't long after when dreams became reality and we moved across the country to Canoe Cove, Prince Edward Island. I had found my garden at last. That first summer I decided to put in a vegetable garden and that salad green was on my mind. It had an unusual leaf, looking something like a fused four leaf clover. I assumed it wouldn't be hard to figure out what it was and added it to the list of things I wanted to grow.
But when I began seed shopping I ran into a problem. I looked and looked and nowhere could I find the leaf I so vividly recalled. I combed through the seed catalogues, searched google and in desperation finally called the produce company long distance in Gibsons. I felt like a bit of a mad fool asking for the secret ingredient to the Colonel's recipe. Was it poor etiquette to demand what was in their salad mix? Perhaps it was but the teenage boy who answered the phone told me the plant I was looking for was Calendula and that was all I cared about. I had the secret ingredient and no one could stop me now!
Except that wasn't the ingredient. Not even close. It didn't look remotely like the plant I was looking for. What now? Did I try calling again? Should I just accept fate and give up?
I procrastinated instead.
Then one day my dear spouse brought me home a book on vegetable gardening. The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith. An out of the blue purchase for no reason at all. Not a book I was thinking of buying, not even one I had heard of before. The world works in mysterious ways. As I flipped through the pages of my new book I found it ..... and started yelling.
Needless to say my reaction left Jody somewhat surprised. There among the vegetable descriptions was one for Claytonia perfoliata, also known as Miner's Lettuce. It was the plant I had been searching for all this time. The common name refers to the fact that this west coast native plant was eaten by California gold rush miners for it's Vitamin C content which prevented scurvy. It has an unusual leaf pattern as the leaves unite together around the stem as the plant grows and appear as one circular leaf. It was this distinct leaf shape I remembered.
Thrilled I immediately went online to look for seeds. AND FOUND NOTHING. I searched every seed company I could think of and Claytonia wasn't for sale at any of them. Little wonder I had so much trouble identifying it. I wasn't going to be dissuaded though. Someone somewhere had to have those seeds. Eventually, after a very thorough search, seeds were found and we were in business!
Come spring, seeds went into the ground and I waited patiently for my salad greens to become a reality. I thought I saw a hint of green at one point, but then it disappeared. I kept waiting. I really am stubborn. But nothing ever happened.
The following spring I wondered what to do. I still had half the packet of seeds and I wanted to try again but didn't know where I had previously gone wrong. Lucky for me fellow blogger Niki Jabour had just written her book The Year Round Veggie Gardener and I attended the release party. Amazingly, Niki also talks about Claytonia in her book so I accosted her on the spot and demanded to know what I was doing wrong. Niki was a good sport and told me Claytonia prefers cool conditions - her advice was to plant as soon as the snow was gone in April.
Once again I headed back to the garden, determined this was the year I would get my way. Come April I tucked the seeds into the ground and happy day - we had seedlings!
|Smaller than a thumbnail and rather yellow looking|
A normal person might have thrown in the towel at that point but not me. Back to the books I went. Re-reading the plant description I noticed that Claytonia is a spring plant that prefers cool damp conditions. It is often found in sandy peaty soil in the shade. Shade, of course. My veggie garden is in full sun. Try again.
This spring I had a tiny amount of seed left. One last chance. I decided in order to have optimum conditions a container would be the best choice. A plastic laundry sink that had been basking in the garage was called into duty. Large, with good drainage it could be filled with loose peaty soil and moved to a shady spot.
There'll be more next year though. My seed rack is sitting next to me as I type and I occasionally hear the pop of seed capsules releasing. Little black seeds dropping onto the newspaper, waiting to be collected and planted next spring so we can do it all over again.
|Hundreds of tiny seed pods formed once the heat set in.|