Friday, 20 January 2012

Salad Leaves for January

A quick, visual guide to salad flavours - spotted in Marlborough earlier this month

Update: this post is also a good starting point for February.

Starting a salad challenge in January is probably the toughest time to start here in the northern hemisphere but if we can prove we can grow something now, then it bodes well for the rest of the year. Thank goodness we didn't embark on this quest this time last year! The coldest winter in decades would have made life pretty tough indeed.

The excesses of Christmas have given way to New Year's good intentions so this is probably why this challenge has struck a chord with so many of you. There's a desire for fresh, tasty healthy food and finding anything remotely gardeny to do is seen as a good thing.

What to Do Now

I've found the most important thing to do is to check my seed tin before going mad with those oh so tempting seed catalogues. I've found I already have packets of mizuna and rocket a-plenty (both suitable for windowsill sowing now), plus a number of salad seed mixes. I checked the instructions on the back of the latter and quite a few of them said they're suitable for indoor sowing for baby leaves. Guess what I'll be doing over the weekend. I've cleared the windowsill in my bathroom for the results - this is brightly lit as is required for this time of the year.

We've seen some frosts and colder nights this week and Tracy produced a timely post outlining how best to protect your windowsill sowings - it can get surprisingly cold there at night despite being indoors.

As seen in last week's post, sprouting seeds is a very good way to fill the gap before I can start harvesting leaf crops sometime next month. I also have some pea shoots well under way in readiness for a later post. I also mentioned microgreens in the Salad Challenge kick-off post - Fennel and Fern's been trying shiso and @Simiansuter has added leeks to my list of seeds to try using this method soon. He adds that not many of these are needed for a taste hit ;)

In the Salad Bowl - what you can harvest this month

Those of you who sowed undercover in the autumn are smugly reporting good crops of rocket, mizuna, chard, lamb's lettuce (aka corn salad), kale, winter purslane (aka miner's lettuce), land cress and all kinds of baby salad leaves. You've proved the winter salad bowl needn't be boring - hurray! Do you have more you can add to the list?

Salad 'Supplements' - seasonal crops to add to your leaves

I've seen lots of remarks about beetroot, which is an excellent salad supplement. A number of you have also spotted their leaves have been growing this month. You may like to try lifting some of them to force more baby leaves to add to your roots. I've found the variety 'Bulls Blood' is perfect for this technique - in fact I grow it in the summer just for its salad leaves.

Carrots of course are another stalwart at this time of the year, either grated and added to mixed leaves or to marry with cabbage and other seasonal fare to make coleslaw as a side dish for your salad.

What are your favourites?

Some Surprises

Those of you who have ventured outside to take stock of your garden's larder have been pleasantly surprised by what's on offer. I managed to find salad burnet, hairy bittercress, viola leaves, dandelions (possibly - see the questions below), and various mints on my patio. My allotment also yielded chickweed and nasturtiums.

Carl Legge has taken the prize for the most available this month via his inspirational visual guide to nearly 20 grown and foraged salad ingredients he found at his place in North Wales. You might also like to check out his tasty recipes for chickweed :)

The unseasonably warm weather's meant some of my stored onions and potatoes are starting to sprout. These have been brought into the kitchen to be used ASAP. Naturally I'm using the green tops of the onions chopped and sprinkled in my salads. I might even combine them with the potatoes to make potato salad for an additional salad supplement :)

Can you help answer these questions?

We've managed to answer all kinds of queries over on #saladchat, but so far the answers to these have eluded us
  • Fennel and Fern would like some more ideas for using her shiso leaves, particularly for a supper party
  • I'd like to know if left over packeted seed can be used for sprouting - if it's certified organic
  • Can baby dandelion leaves be foraged now, or is it best to blanch them for a couple of weeks using e.g. a small plate?
Next week is the first of our designated monthly Salad Days. Join me and Mr Linky in showing off all you've managed to achieve in our first month of The 52 Week Salad Challenge.

NB I'm compiling all of these posts plus lots more useful stuff into a Page dedicated to the 52 Week Salad Challenge. Take the link or you'll find it in the right hand sidebar under the Pages heading :)

10 comments:

  1. You're doing completely brilliantly - there's such a lot of enthusiasm for this.

    Might I add radish to the list of really good seeds to sprout on your windowsill - microgreens, I suppose you should call them, but they're seriously delish.

    Personally I prefer microgreens to sprouted seeds - tried both for an article in GYO magazine last year. Microgreens have so much more flavour - and variety, IMO.

    And in answer to your final question: dandelion leaves are always rather bitter if unblanched, so my advice would be always blanch them whatever stage you pick them. I'd bung a flowerpot over the top after blocking the hole up - terracotta work best as they don't blow over as easily :D

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    1. Hi CG - I've had a rootle around the seed tin and found several packets of radishes. NAH and I aren't keen on their roots, let's see how we get on with them as microgreens :)

      Am now blanching my dandelions!

      Delete
  2. Ohhhh add brussels sprouts to your list next to kale. I've got both in the snow covered garden now...I did have Tom Thumb butter lettuce but this ice and snow we've been dealing with in Washington state the last 5 days has probably reduced the lettuce to mush.

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    Replies
    1. Joan - I heard you'd had a big dump of snow!

      Here's hoping you have something that's survived - your sprouts probably have the best chance.

      Delete
  3. Never heard of blanching dandelion leaves. But then I add them to packets of bland lettuce in lieu of exotic bitter leaves.

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    1. Hi Diana - blanching removes some of the bitterness and makes the leaves more tender. I think I need to try both. I need something to liven up salads at this time of the year...

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  4. Must admit to feelings of January lethargy though I have sown some salad leaves. A trip to the big city of Chester yesterday yielded a sprout germinator so I'm ready to go. Have never munched dandelions but from what I have read blanched is better unless you relish bitter. There's a recipe for shiso, mooli and kiwi fruit salad in 'Jekka's Complete Herb Book'. I will tweet to alert F&F :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Anna - I saw your tweets and Jekka herself has also replied :)

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