Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spring salads-Yum!

Early spring mixed salad greens

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Springtime is the prime time for the freshest, crispest, tastiest salads of the year.  There are so many options for salads.  The vast majority of greens have something in common-they are the sweetest in the cool, moist days of spring. 

There are many perennial greens that are going strong this time of year.  Salad burnet, garden sorrel, chard, blood veined sorrel, over wintered sprouting broccoli, cultivated dandelions, arugula, overwintered spinach, Giant Red mustard are of harvestable size this time of year.  You can add the early herbs for zest like garlic chives, common chives, tarragon, sage, oregano, leeks, and onions.  If you started lettuce indoors or bought a multipack earlier, you will also have lettuce leaves you can add.

Multipacks are a great deal.  I've seen 9 packs for less than $2 and they have many fun and heirloom varieties too.  I am loving the red varieties.  They have even more nutrition than just the green.  The same antioxidants that blueberries have.
Blood veined sorrel and parsley
Greens are fed by nitrogen (stimulates green growth) and stay sweetest in cool temperatures with consistent moisture.  Like most vegetables, greens do best in a fertile soil, rich in organic matter.

You can accomplish this through adding compost to your garden bed or container with a balanced fertilizer and blanketed with a mulch covering.  Planting or positioning your container in a spot where it gets some sun, but good afternoon shade to keep the plant cool will prolong the sweetness of the leaves.  You can also use a shade cover to keep the plant and soil temperature down.  Greens do not need much sun in the summer since there is so much reflected light available to the plant.

You don’t want the soil to dry completely out.  This will stress the plant and stimulate it to go to flower, or bolt as they call it.  Keep the soil moist.  Mulching is a great way to keep the soil evenly moist.  It also adds organic matter and suppresses weeds.  Just make sure if you are planting in mulch that the plants roots are fully in the soil.

Picking right after a rain or first thing in the morning also gives the sweetest, plumpest leaves.  Harvest leaves from the outside of the plant.  Lettuce and other greens will continue to produce leaves from the inside.  Your harvest amount and length will significantly increase doing this versus cutting the entire plant for a single harvest.
Assorted greens in Earthboxes

To wrap it up:
1.  Plant in rich soil.
2.  Use a natural fertilizer high in nitrogen (coffee grinds work well) each time you seed or plant.
3.  Keep the soil evenly moist; don't allow to dry out completely.  Planting in self-watering pots and applying mulch can help.
4.  Successive sowing of lettuce and spinach seeds.
5.  Keep the plants in a cool, shady location to extend the harvest in the summertime.
6.  Harvest outer leaves to let the inner leaves continue to grow.
7.  Be creative!  With so many fun options out there, try some new salad combos this year.

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