Also known as corn salad, mâche, if you’re feeling French, or Valerianella locusta to the scientifically minded. Lamb’s lettuce is a surprisingly hardy little plant that’s available when few other fresh leaves are: from autumn till early summer. It doesn’t mind cold weather or even snow but tends to bolt with warmer weather, which means here in Scotland we are blessed with an exceptionally long season.
Lamb’s lettuce has got a delicious nutty flavour. It started out as a weed in corn fields (hence its other name), but as it’s so delicious, people started cultivating it on purpose, too. Indeed, it is so good that according to one fairy tale, a pregnant woman got so obsessed with it that her husband had to sneak into their neighbour’s garden to steal it for her. This got them into lots of trouble later. When their daughter was born she was named after the plant – Rapunzel. (Rapunzel is one of many German words for lamb’s lettuce.)
You can use lamb’s lettuce as a salad leaf in any way you fancy but it really comes into its own with a dressing of sour cream, lemon, salt and pepper and some chopped onions. Add some bits of fried bacon and it’s out of this world!
Here at Locavore we’ve sown lamb’s lettuce outdoors at the Urban Croft in autumn and have been harvesting small batches ever since. As it’s a rather low-growing plant we harvest very close to the ground so a bit of mud around the stalks is inevitable. Expect some in your veg box from January till springtime. You don’t even have to give up your first-born…