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From the Garden: Succulent and almost-meaty to eat... Claytonia is a real alternative to spinach

Its real value is in providing us with winter greens from October or November right up until April, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

CLAYTONIA, ALSO CALLED winter pursulane or miner’s lettuce, is a really useful, hardy, heart-shaped winter salad green that can be used to bulk up winter salads and stir-fries, and can still be sown even at this late time of the year.

It was called miner’s lettuce after the Goldrush miners who valued its high vitamin C content to ward off scurvy. 100 grams of claytonia contains a third of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, 22 percent of the Vitamin A, and 10 percent of the iron. So this little leaf packs a nutritional punch.

Claytonia is succulent and almost-meaty to eat. It will also withstand cooking – so is excellent as an alternative to spinach – and it is very easy to grow.

Though claytonia will grow in the spring/summer, its real value is in providing us with winter greens from October or November right up until April of the following year.

We sow claytonia in module trays in August and September (with four to five seeds per module), though you can keep sowing until the end of October if you have a greenhouse or polytunnel. After sowing, keep it well watered. The seeds will germinate rapidly.

After two to three weeks, carefully plant out each little clump of seedlings in soil – either in the polytunnel or outside – and allow 7-10cm between plants.

Claytonia prefers cooler temperatures, which is why it is ideal for autumn sowing and it will tolerate cold winter temperatures – it might need to be covered with a fleece or cloche during very frosty weather if grown outside.

Make sure to keep it well watered if you are growing it under cover, or if you get a very dry spell outside, although this is unlikely in the winter.

To harvest, cut using scissors, leaving a few centimeters of the base of the plant in place – you will get at least four to five cuts off each plant over the winter.

Claytonia deteriorates quickly once picked, which is why you will almost never see it available to buy commercially. It will, however, keep in the fridge for a few days.

The leaves are at their tastiest when young and tender. The smaller leaves are great in salads, while larger ones can be cooked (throw in to a stir fry at the last-minute or boil briefly like spinach).

The Basics – Blackcurrants

Blackcurrants will benefit from a pruning each year, and October/November are good months to do so. Start pruning two years after planting. There are two types of branches that need attention.

  1. Weak or diseased branches – cut them out or cut them back to ground level.
  2. Old wood – cut out about a third of branches that bore fruit this year to make room for new shoots.

If you wish to plant a new blackcurrant bush, do so in November (bare-rooted, container-grown plants can be grown at any time of the year). Allow up to 5ft between plants.

Recipe of the Week – Blackberry and Apple Crumble


  • 900g apples – peeled, cored and cut in to chunks
  • 350g blackberries
  • 160g demerara sugar
  • Juice of two lemons
  • 225g plain flour
  • 175g butter
  • 125g muesli or a mixture of porridge oats, seeds and chopped nuts

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Preheat the oven to 200C.  Pour the lemon juice over the apples – this will add flavour and stops the apples from going brown.

Layer the apples, blackberries, and sugar in a lasagna dish. Place the flour in a large bowl and then rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the muesli and another 50g sugar and mix through. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the fruit. Bake for 45 minutes. Cool for a few minutes and then serve with custard or cream.

Michael Kelly is an author, broadcaster and founder of GIY.

© GIY Ireland 2019 – all rights reserved. 

About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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