Growing Salad Greens

Articles
April 07, 2009

Growing Salad Greens

Suddenly spring has sprung in my part of the world – every tree is misted with pale green and all sorts of wild flowers are showing their faces in the hedgerows. At this time of the year my thoughts turn to salads and it seems there are more and more varieties waiting to be grown.

Suddenly spring has sprung in my part of the world – every tree is misted with pale green and all sorts of wild flowers are showing their faces in the hedgerows. At this time of the year my thoughts turn to salads and it seems there are more and more varieties waiting to be grown. So, (while reminding myself of the few that were disappointing last year), these are some of the interesting salad vegetables I’m thinking of growing this spring:

Amaranth greens (also called Chinese spinach). I think the taste for amaranth leaves comes to us from India – certainly I encountered it first in Indian cooking. There are green and red amaranth leaves, both pretty, pleasant tasting and excellent in salads and stir-fries.
Pak Choi (or Bok Choi) and Mizuna greens are basics of Oriental cooking and fast and easy to grow for salads. Mizuna greens have feathery fine cut leaves and are deliciously peppery.
Beetroot leaves are very nice in a salad when young – and you have the bonus of a small beetroot at the other end!
Chards, I suspect are mainly chopped into salads for their superb colour – ‘Rainbow’ and ‘Red’ chard give you some idea of their value in a salad. They are not especially flavoursome but chock full of lovely vitamins if they come out of your garden.
Arugula (called Rocket in Britain), I love, again with a peppery, spicy, taste, which gives the taste buds something to think about.
And of course, Cilantro (Coriander, here) gets a mention – very easy to grow (I hate the taste but many people love it.)
There are the basic lettuces in all shapes and sizes, and depending where you live and whether you have a greenhouse (or some useful windowsills), you can grow various lettuces, endives and escarole almost all year round. Check with gardening friends and plant nurseries for the varieties which grow well where you live - there are many types available, some hardy and some requiring greenhouse protection, but all full of vitamins when you grow them yourself.

I think the hardest part is learning to sow seeds ‘in succession’ i.e. every so often, so that you have a continuing crop and not just a terrible glut of lettuces in August, so many that your friends hastily change the conversation when they know you are going to say “and, would you like some lettuces?”
Set up a routine for sowing a few more seeds repeatedly – say, the beginning and middle of each month, you’ll soon get into the habit and the nice thing is that you don’t have to sow a lot of seeds – just a pinch will do, and it’s amazing how quickly they grow into delicious feasts.
As always,
Happy horticulture,
Diana.