Saturday, September 21, 2013

Summer greens

Young sprouting broccoli

Saturday, September 21, 2013

For the salad lovers out there, the dog days of summer can put a crimp on your salad greens.  If you are reflecting back over the past summer gardening season and wishing you had had more greens, you are in luck.

What are your choices?  

Well, definitely practice succession planting of your lettuce and choose your varieties wisely.  In early spring, look for cold hardy types.  Mid spring, any type will be happy.  When you hit late spring and summer, start looking for “bolt resistance” and “heat tolerant” varieties.  For leaf lettuce, “New Red Fire”, “Simpson Elite”.  For butterhead type, “Optima”, “Winter Density”.  Romaine types “Jericho”, “Green Towers”.  Summer crisp type “Magenta” and “Nevada”.  For fall, look for the “cold tolerant” and “winter hardy” to harvest through the fall and winter.

Your other choice is to grow greens other than lettuce.  The trick is to harvest the leaves while they are small.  This is when they are the most tender and the sweetest.  Also, planting where they get good shade in the afternoon and keep them well watered will help keep them sweet and succulent.

Here are some options for summer greens.  
Amaranth.  Grows up to 8’ and comes in red and green leaved.  Self seeds. 
Beets and swiss chard.  “Bull’s Blood” “Flat of Egypt” are good beet options.  All swiss chard options are good while leaves are small, but can get 5’.  Perpetual Spinach chard tastes more like spinach.  Self seeds and will survive as a perennial if grown in a sheltered spot.
Collards and kale.  Look for “sweet” in the description.
Malabar spinach.  A vine with juicy leaves; also used to thicken soups.
Mustard greens.  There are some beautifully colored varieties available today.  Self seeds.
New Zealand spinach.  Small fleshy leaves.
Orach.  Many colors to choose from and grows to 5’ tall.  Self seeds.
Salad burnet.  Tastes kind of like cucumber.  Perennial.
Sorrel.  French is the sweetest.  Blood-veined is striking.  Both are perennials.  Has a flavor reminiscent of Granny Smith apples.
Sprouting broccoli.  It isn’t just the head that is edible; the leaves are as well!  Can get 5’ tall.
Sweet potato leaves.  Yes, the leaves are edible!
Weeds.  These are actually powerhouses of vitamins and minerals.  Dandelions (you can also buy seeds of varieties bred to give large leaves like French or Italian), purslane, lamb’s quarter, cardamine, chickweed, wood sorrel, bergamot.

If I had to choose, I would go with the sprouting broccoli, French dandelion, and Perpetual Spinach for their bigger leaves.

Don’t forget the herbs in your garden.  These add an interesting dimension to your salad.  Tarragon, basil, mint, chives, lemon balm are all great adds.

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