Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Monday, 1 April 2013

GBMD: Lettuce is Like...


Lettuce is like conversation, it must be fresh and crisp, and so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.

Charles Dudley Warner (1829-1900)

It might not be the 16 different leaf salad Sarah Raven enjoyed with Christopher Lloyd one February*, but I'm proud of last month's 8-leaf version grown by my own fair hand.

In the picture we have: lettuce 'Amaze', lamb's lettuce, 'Bull's Blood' beetroot, Komatsuna (leaf and flower), hairy bittercress (foraged from the patio), mustard 'Giant Red' (picked small to keep the heat in proportion), pea shoots and sprouted lentils.

I've read recently lettuce is better if left to plump up in cold water for a couple of hours before serving**. I pick ours just 5 minutes before tea and just give it a quick wash and spin dry. I don't think it's had time to wilt which is what I believe the advice is about. I feel the need for a little experimentation coming on...

I can confirm that like today's Muse Day quote, the pictured salad was fresh, crisp and sparkling :)

* = as she related during the Grow Cook Eat day she did at Yeo Valley recently. This is part of the series of talks they're hosting to raise funds for Horatio's Garden. A 16-leaf salad is what I'm aiming for next year :)

** = Sarah Raven mentioned the same thing at the Grow Cook Eat day.
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20 comments:

  1. Have you encountered Stephen Barstow's Extreme Salads? A 16-leaf salad is quite tame ;) http://www.hagegal.info/index.php/de-hagegale/hagegale-i-media/342-xtreme-sallads-stephen

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  2. Super impressive 8 leaf salad. I think I would only manage a 3 or 4 leaf salad at the moment. Somehow I messed up my succession planting and I don't have any lettuce much at all at the moment. Just rocket and herbs.

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  3. Imagine the plumping advice doesn't apply to leaves just picked. Was astonished when a friend refreshed wilting lettuce leaves by immersing in hot water before cold. It worked.

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  4. Great salad!
    Love the quote, too!
    Lea
    Lea's Menagerie

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  5. Yummy photo! You should be very pleased.

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  6. Hello Michelle! You really know your salads. Talking of wilting, do you ever get that happening to your leaves whilst they're actually growing? If so, do you know what that's all about? I find I can grow a load of leaves that do remarkably well but just a few of them really wilt up?

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  7. Emma - I know, I'm such a wuss ;) seem to remember you blogged about this a few weeks ago. 16 leaves is the aim for next year and then who knows? Thanks for the reminder :)

    Liz - I've had a real problem with rocket this winter. It's usually so reliable, but mine's been most moribund :(

    Lucy - I'm astonished too! Dare I try that?

    Lea, Lu and Bren - thanks!

    Anna B - Hmmm, you have me stumped! Shows there's still loads to learn about salads :) Is it a few leaves wilting on the same plant? Are you growing a thick row of plants for cut and come again?

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  8. Wow, that's really impressive, it looks fantastic. I have some pea shoots, and from the garden some rather tough looking mustard leaves. I could probably scrape together a little chicory and French sorrel too, but probably only enough for a couple of salads! Where is Spring???

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    1. Welcome! We have just enough left for a couple of salads at the moment, but the replacement leaves are growing fast as are the pea shoots :)

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  9. That's very impressive for this time of year. I must sow some salad!

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  10. Hi VP! Yeah, I'm growing leaves close together for cut and come back. If you imagine a bunch of lettuce growing it's the leaves round the edges of the bunch that sometimes start to wilt. I end up just pulling them out altogether. I'm wondering if it's too much heat or too much water?

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    1. Well, I get this too when I grow a thick clump of lettuces. I think it's too much competition between the plants for both water and light. I often find these get a bit mildewy too. When I interviewed Charles Dowding last year he convinced me to try picking leaves instead which means the lettuces are grown spaced well apart and you pick around the outside of the plant, but leave the central core so the plant recovers and grows more leaves. I found this worked well for me last year AND with no stressy looking leaves :)

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    2. Hi Michelle! I did a bit of investigation myself yesterday too, your post has prompted me to get to the bottom of it! It suggested if the soil gets dry it can happen, now that could be what's happened to mine in this instance because it got a bit dried out when I was on holiday last week. I usually grow individual plants outside with lots of space and I do exactly that, pick around the edges. Always works brilliantly. This just seems to happen to my leaves I grow and grow in trays. I guess with all these plants they know what they like and they will do what they want half the time! Thanks for your advice :)

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    3. Hi Anna - yep dry soil would be it - the mildew look I was referring to often happens when plants are suffering water stress. Good on you for your tenacity in finding out what's going on with your plants :)

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  11. Am deeply impressed at the range of leaves you have to eat!

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  12. Hi Janet - there will now be a slight pause whilst the ones I've sown catch up!

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  13. Hi Michelle - I've just joined the Salad Challenge, and then have spent this morning digging up chickweed and hairy bittercress! I did think about saving some for eating but I'll leave that pleasure until I have some proper salad to add to the mix! I saved one particularly splendid (and large!) specimen of H Bittercress, thinking to eat it later - should I prune the flowers off do you think? Caro x

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  14. Caro - great to have you join in :) Strangely all the chickweed seems to have disappeared from my plot. I have loads of hairy bittercress though!

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