Salad Days

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Green onionWe actually managed to over-winter a few loose-leaf varieties of lettuce and a surprisingly hardy French chicory whose leaves turned a gorgeous deep burgundy in the cold weather. But most of our winter salads are made of chard, spinach, mustard greens, beet greens, radish sprouts, arugula and green onions we discovered bursting out of a compost pile. Now that we are on the far side of the Winter Solstice, I’m starting the Asian greens–the Pac Chois and Chinese Asparagus–and a much more expansive salad garden.

I chose High Mowing Seeds ‘Beta Mix’ to anchor the salad garden this spring. It’s a blend of beet and chard varieties that should have no trouble germinating even if we have a cold February. Of course, that’s anybody’s guess. The next ten days of weather here call for Sunny and 60’s which will make a wonderful germination window for just about anything I want to plant as long as I can keep all the seedbeds moist enough.

I plan to include spinach, mostly the Guntmadingen from Adaptive Seed, several Romaine varieties and some ‘Rubin’ lettuce they gave me yesterday when I made the pilgrimage to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Petaluma. The ‘Rubin’ leaves have a warm red-gold color that just has to be good for you.

If I can bear to cut and compost more of the favas and other cover crops, I’ll also put in some of Territorial Seeds Italian Saladini blend. But the problem with lettuces is that you really don’t want them all at once, you want them over time. Unfortunately, the window of optimal eating for any individual lettuce plant is actually very short. I’m using two different strategies to try to keep the family in salads this spring. First, I’m planting mixed varieties, so not all the plants in the mix are ready at once. And, second, I’m planting in small sections every couple of weeks from here until the weather gets settled and really warm and we switch over to eating orach and other summer greens and tomatoes and cucumbers fill our salad bowls.

Are you starting the spring salad garden yet? What are you putting in this year?

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