Salad Leaves

Salad Leaves

What comes to mind? Limp lettuce? Crunchy leaves? Tangy spicy flavours? Salad leaves are available in a standard range as prepacked in the supermarket but can be quite expensive. Seed is cheap so sowing a little seed regularly can give you an ongoing harvest. It can be ideal for small gardens, containers outdoors or windowsill gardening. A useful harvest of fresh tasty leaves and flowers that can be picked and eaten within 5-10 mins of cropping. No air or road miles. No single use plastics. A useful crop provided you like salad!

Salad leaves are increasingly diverse. Lettuces such as butterhead, cos and crisphead lettuces, are available as are some of the newer additions to the salad offering of cut and come again mixes. Traditional leaves such as watercress, spinach and purslane also have expanded to include chard, rocket, pak choi, mizuna, mibuna and other mustards which are a great addition to salads creating variation in taste and texture. Don’t forget that some flower heads and seed pods can also be used to spice up a salad. Nasturtium flowers, leaves and seed pods can all be used. 

Most plants used as salad leaves prefer cool and moist conditions both to germinate and grow. Many have a tendency to bolt if the weather is too dry or too warm which is a shame when we tend to prefer lighter salad meals in the warmer weather.

Salad leaves will need regular watering as they are often shallow rooted and don't have access to deeper soil moisture. Many salad leaves lose a lot of moisture through their leaves from both sun and wind. I think there are few who enjoy pre-wilted leaves!

Look at experimenting with some of the following to enhance and diversify your salads:

Herbs - coriander, dill, lovage, purslane, sorrel, basil. 

Leaves - lettuce, escarole - endive, chicory (sugarloaf types), colourful chards, beets, spinach

Spicy leaves - rocket, mustards, watercress and landcress, nasturtiums - seeds and leaves, radish seed pods. 

Drought tolerant - rockets, nasturtiums, dill, lovage, pea shoots, 

Cooler conditions  - Pak choi, watercress, lettuce varieties, spinach and chard, purslane, 

Perennial varieties - rocket, lovage, watercress

Whatever you choose, remember to pick regularly and nip out unwanted flower shoots to prevent your salad tasting bitter.

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