Sunday, June 1, 2014

Growing summer salads

Sprouting broccoli

Sunday, June 1, 2014

When it gets hot, the cool season greens like lettuce and spinach “bolt” which means they send up a flower stalk.  The leaves on many types of lettuce get bitter when this happens.  So, how do you keep a summer salad going?

Some go to cucumber, onion, and tomato salads.  I remember these from my Granny.  Add a little apple cider vinegar, oil, and sea salt and you have a perfect summer salad.

From the Italian side of the family, insalate caprese which literally means salad from Capri, an island off the Naples coast in Italy.  It was made with fresh sliced tomatoes, fresh sliced mozzarella cheese, a pinch of dried oregano and drizzled with olive oil.  Elsewhere in Italy it is made with fresh basil instead of oregano.  Either way is delicious!

A good way to keep the lettuce going is to keep resowing lettuce seeds every 3 weeks to keep a new crop of lettuce growing.  I resow this time of year with “bolt resistant” varieties.  This week end I planted Red Sails (it stays sweet even when bolting), Jericho romaine, Green Towers romaine, New Red Fire lettuce, and Simpson Elite.  Magenta summer crisp and Optima butterhead are also heat resistant. 

Lettuce seed will not sprout when soil temps are above 75 F.  If in pots, move to a shady spot or you can use a shade cover or plant in the shade of other veggies if in the garden to keep the soil temperature down.

Red sails lettuce

I also sowed “Valentine” mix from Botanical Interests seed company.  I just love the red lettuces.  “Valentine” includes Marvel of Four Seasons, Lolla Rosa, Redina, Red Oak Leaf, Red Salad Bowl, Rouge d’Hiver, and Ruben’s Red.  I enjoy buying mixed seeds to have a variety on hand in the garden.

When cutting your lettuce, remove just the outer leaves.  The plant will continue to put on new inner leaves so you can harvest for weeks off each plant.

A seed packet contains enough seeds for at least a two or three seasons in them for us.  I put the opened packets in a zip lock and store in the frig to keep them viable for years.

Besides succession planting, I use summer greens to supplement the salad bowl.  My favorites are Chard (they come in beautiful colors), French sorrel (tastes like a tart apple), Blood veined sorrel, Sprouting Broccoli (their leaves taste like a mild broccoli and stay sweet all season), cultivated Italian dandelions and cultivated plantain.  For all but the sprouting broccoli, use the small, new leaves.  As the leaves stay on the plant, they become tougher and more bitter.  For larger leaves, steaming or sautéing is a great way to prepare these fresh greens.  Granny liked to sauté with bacon grease and drizzle some apple cider vinegar over them.
Garden chives in bloom

Herbs are also a great add to the salad bowl.  Tarragon, chives, basil, salad burnet and leeks or Egyptian walking onions are favorite adds.

When your lettuce does bolt, let the tastiest stalk go to seed and save the seeds to resow.

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