Monday, June 29, 2009
It's getting warm, but that doesn't mean you have to stop eating salads! Lettuce gets bitter and bolts when the weather heats up; ditto for spinach. However, there are plenty of delicious alternatives to your basic salad greens, most of which have delicious, unique flavors. You can always buy your salad pre-washed and mixed at the farmers' market...Root Force Collective Farm, currently vending at the Bryan Park and South of the James markets even sells a blend that includes borage, fennel green and edible flowers. If you've got a bit of dirt available though, why spend all the money when you can grow it yourself? Just direct seed any of the following varieties of greens, and you'll be cutting salad in no time.
The ultimate green. Spicy and unique, prolific, a perfect companion to salads with fruit, nuts and creamy cheeses.
Pak Choi (small varieties)
A great salad base, this asian green has a very mild and slightly sweet flavor. The stem is pleasantly crunchy and slightly juicy, reminiscent in texture to celery, though not as aromatic. Make sure to buy a small variety, as the large ones can get big like swiss chard and are really not suitable for salads.
Osaka Purple Mustard Greens
Any variety of mustard greens will hold up just fine, but I love the Osaka purple because...well...it jsut makes me so nostalgic. I love Osaka. Southwestern Japan will always hold a special place in my heart. Nandeyanen...anway, I also just love the color and the intense spicyness (similar to horseradish -- a completely different sense of 'spicy' than you find with arugula). Be careful with this one if you've got a sensitive tongue. I recommend chopping it and just adding a little at first.
This Asian green competes with arugula for my favorite. It looks like spinach but tastes better...very vibrant and almost citrusy. The stem is also crunchy and pleasant.
I will also note that the best thing about these salad greens is that every one of them doubles as a sauteing green. They all hold up amazingly well as parts of soups or curries, on pasta or rice, on pizza, or anywhere else you might use a denser green! Seeds for all of these are available from Johnny's, and they ship fast. Summer greens are the perfect filler for a space in the garden where you've harvested overwintered veggies like garlic and onions. They are also really easy to plant: just throw some seeds down. You could thin later if you like, but honestly, you don't really need each individual plant to get that large if you're planning on eating salads. I sowed these greens in my median garden about a month to a month and a half ago and they are ready to go. You could even just toss a bunch of seeds together and sprinkle them in a big patch, then just gently clear-cut with a pair of clippers. They will flush back out as long as you don't cut down to the base.
Any summer salad greens I'm missing? Don't hesitate to let me know!