Growing Salad Greens

Growing Salad Greens
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Growing Salad GreensGrowing your own greens for salad is easy! There is nothing like picking your own salad ingredients. In the winter many of us will grab a bag of salad mix when we're in a hurry. But let's be honest, you can tell it's not that fresh, and doesn't have the same taste as homegrown lettuce. Even if you try a small selection you'll have a taste of fresh spring greens!

Most lettuce and greens are cool weather vegetables, so spring and fall are the perfect time to direct seed. When the temperatures approach 80 it's difficult to start the seeds, but you can do this indoors, then transplant them in a protected spot where there is some sun, but it's shaded during the hottest part of the day. This is always worth a try, and as you experiment you'll find varieties that work best for you. But this is the best time of year to get started!

Lettuce needs a well-drained loose soil, that has been amended with compost, plus wood ashes or a little lime. You can plant the seeds as soon as the soil can be worked. I have a porch box in back that I'm planting this week with mixed lettuce and greens, then in June I'll plant my basil there. Sprinkle seeds on the soil and cover with a very light covering of soil. You can mix your seeds with sand if it makes it easier for you to see where it's planted. Water gently after planting. When the seedlings have sprouted and have started to grow, thin them to about 6" apart. After they start to touch each other thin again-using the greens for salad.

Remember you can harvest the lettuce young-you don't have to wait until it's full grown! Be VERY diligent about weeding your lettuce. You don't want to use any chemicals at all, so right from the start pick out the weeds. If you do this from the beginning it shouldn't be too bad! Keep the seedlings watered well, and harvest as needed once they are large enough, which in many cases, is just 6 inches or so! Loose-leaf is easiest to grow and you can be harvesting it in as little as 38 days (Redina). One variety of butterhead, Tom Thumb, is about he size of a baseball and is ready in about 47 days.

You can also add other greens to your selection of lettuce that are fast growing and add different tastes and textures:

-Purslane-the cultivated version of the weed is much nicer and will grow all summer for harvest. Ready in 26 days!

-Red Giant Mustard-easy to grow, cool weather plant. Purplish red leaves that grow about 12". Spicy addition to salads!

-Mesclun-this names covers a variety of greens from different countries-some mild and some a little bitter, but all interesting!

-Cress-a tangy addition to salad-It grows quickly and can be harvested at 4 inches!

-Corn Salad/Mache: a mild flavored green that you can seed in early spring and harvest all summer.

INDOOR POTS

If you have VERY limited space, or just want to try something different, you can grow pots of lettuce and greens under lights indoors. Place the plants under the light for at least 8-10 hours per day. You'll need at least a 40 watt fluorescent bulb and the plants need to be no farther away than 2 inches. Raise it as they grow, and use a natural fertilizer such as a fish kelp type. The Tom Thumb lettuce will grow in a 4 inch pot. However and where ever you grow it, give greens a try this year. Your salads will be special treats!

Greens with Cherries and Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

1 7.5-ounce package mixed greens

1/4 cup dried cherries (no-sugar-added)

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

3 tablespoons raspberry or red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, minced

Divide the greens between 4 salad plates. Evenly distribute the dried cherries and goat cheese over the greens. In a small cup, whisk together raspberry vinegar, oil, and shallot. Drizzle dressing over the salads and serve at once. Makes 4 servings. NOTES: You can substitute feta cheese and add a few walnuts on each plate. Instead of shallot you can use a minced garlic clove or green onion- depending on what taste you like. Instead of the homemade dressing there are several nice lowfat raspberry vinaigrettes that would work well.

Shrimp Salad

Ingredients:

8 cups of mixed greens

4 cups cooked shrimp

2 cups thinly sliced red onion

2 cups orange sections

1 tsp. chopped chives on EACH serving

vinaigrette dressing-homemade or bought

Arrange greens on each persons plate or in individual bowls. Tops with the onion rings, orange sections and shrimp-sprinkle with the chives. Serve the dressing on the side. Offer bread or rolls with the salad. This can be a very light lunch or a salad before dinner.

Variations:

-Add fresh dill and capers with the chives.

-Offer avocado and chopped cilantro.

-Use fresh cucumber with the dill or tarragon.

-Offer boiled egg slices and olives.

-Grill the shrimp before adding to the salad

Mixed Greens and Walnuts

Ingredients:

8 ounces mixed salad greens

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

thinly sliced red onion

8 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

2 tart green apples, cored and diced

8 ounce bottle of raspberry dressing

Assemble the lettuce on plates, then top with even amounts of each item. Drizzle with dressing or offer on the side. NOTES: There are some wonderful dressings. One I use is Ken's Raspberry Pecan Fat Free Dressing. It's good and moderately priced. You can use other cheese if you wish such as Feta or Parmesan.

 

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

More On Salads:
Growing Arugula
Homemade Dressings

 

About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.

 
 

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