Edible Gardening – Salads

Rather eat leaves and flowers!

Hunger can of course be stilled by wolfing down a rack of pork ribs or knawing on a fatty mutton chop. You will be full, even a tad bloated, but might have a slight heartburn afterwards. This is not even a remotely, soul-like experience!

Eating a large garden salad made with home-grown ingredients on the other hand, is a completely different, more elevated experience. You will enjoy a much more visual feast containing all the goodness Mother Nature can supply with textured and coloured lettuce leaves, combined with crunchy sun-kissed vegetables, daintily snipped aromatic herbs, and a handful of bright garden flowers, all moistened with a tasty dressing – this is real soul food!

The biggest advantage of growing decorative lettuces is the rich variety of colours and shapes they represent, allowing you to create a very attractive salad – and, the best thing is, that they are fresh from the source, which continuously produces more leaves for you to pick.

 

Simple garden salad

  •  2 handfuls of mixed salad leaves
  • 1 handful of mixed garden flowers (include violas, pansies, calendula petals and nasturtium petals)

Wash your harvest and arrange decoratively on two salad plates.

Whisk together:

  •  1t red-wine vinegar
  • 1t Dijon mustard
  • 3T extra-virgin olive oil

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle over the leaves and flowers.

 

Festive petal and leaf salad

Make this salad as big or as small as you wish, but allow for extra salad dressing for each guest.

  •  6 handfuls of mixed salad greens
  • 1 handful of baby spinach leaves (you can add some Asian greens like mizuna, pak choi and tatsoi too)

 

Make a dressing with:

  •  2 to 3 T white-wine vinegar
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely minced
  • 4 to 5 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T finely chopped mint or basil

 

Wash the greens well, dry and arrange in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, seasoning, garlic and whisk in the oil. Add the herbs and stir.

Just before serving, sprinkle the dressing over the greens. Then garnish with the following, washed and dried garden flowers: baby rose petals, strawberry blossoms, borage, violas, pansies, sweet violets, carnation petals, fruit tree blossoms and snipped chives.

Lettuce cultivation in a nutshell:

Lettuces can be grown in summer too, but must not be planted too close together. Although they enjoy a sunny position, they would prefer to grow in the shade of other leafy vegetables in the hot months.

They like fertile, compost-enriched soil which retains moisture well.

You can sow the seeds directly, but to prevent a glut which can go wasted, plant excess seedlings, when you have to thin them out, in small pots or plant them in another row. They will take time to overcome over-planting shock and will grow slower than the sown plants and crop later.

Feed them often with a water soluble fertiliser and keep the soil moist. If allowed to dry out completely, the plants will stress and will rapidly run to seed.

Harvesting tips

Lettuces can be harvested whole or in the case of loose-leaved varieties leaf by leaf, as you need them. Hearted varieties like Cos or romaine grow upright and produce long, crisp leaves and a succulent heart – they are ready to harvest as soon as they feel plumb and firm.

Storage

Whole lettuces like the crisphead variety ‘Iceberg’, can be kept in a refrigerator for a few days, but it is best to use your lettuce fresh from the garden.

A new-fangled idea from certain supermarket chains, are too sell the whole lettuce plant roots and all, ie. ‘so fresh it is still growing’, to keep it palatable for longer. If you over-planted you lettuce crop and can afford to play around with some them, it is quite a cute idea to rip them out of the soil roots and all and to use them after washing all the mud off, as table decorations in large glass vases – very trendy and organic!

 

 

Source: The Edible Flower Garden by Rosalind Creasy. Periplus Editions (1999). ISBN 962 593 293 3

 For more information on bringing Life to your Garden, visit our website www.lifeisagarden.co.za or join the conversation on our facebook page: www.facebook.com/lifeisagardensa.

  AUTHOR
South Coast Sun

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