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I love making salads during the growing season. There’s nothing quite like walking out the back door with a pair of scissors or herb snips and harvesting your own salad greens. I even built a lettuce table for that very purpose. However I need variety. I’m not content to just grow one type of lettuce and call it a day. I grow a bunch of things so there is a medley of flavours and varieties in my bowl.
The thing is, you don’t have to be relegated to the lettuce section of the seed catalogue. There are so many other greens you can also grow. Here are a few of my favourites.
Growing different salad greens
Parsley: I absolutely love parsley. I know it’s often considered pure garnish, but I really enjoy the flavour and it’s great added to salads. If I’m out in the garden, I’ll pick a sprig (or three!) to munch away on. I like both flat-leaf and curly varieties. And last year, for the first time, I discovered swallowtail caterpillars munching away before they set up their cocoon business. Other herbs, like dill and cilantro (if you’re one of those people who doesn’t think it tastes like soap) are great mixed into a lettuce salad, as well.
Amaranth: Niki is the one who introduced me to baby amaranth leaves. Last year I planted a lovely variety called ‘Red Garnet’ whose young leaves I harvested for salads.
Nasturtiums: When you think about it, nasturtiums are amazing flowers to have in the veggie garden. They not only attract pollinators and act as trap crops, you can eat both the blooms AND the leaves! The leaves have a bit of a peppery flavour and provide a nice flavour contrast when dispersed among a crop of sweeter lettuce leaves.
Baby kale: I’m one of those people who didn’t jump on the kale superfood bandwagon because I was already on it! I love steamed kale and make the odd batch of kale chips, but when you pick the leaves young, they are quite edible in a salad. And have you seen my crazy kale plant? One of my local restaurants makes a delicious kale Caesar salad.
Pak choy: I find this Asian green to be crunchy and delicious and a perfect addition to or lettuce substitute. I have a packet from High Mowing Organic Seeds simply called White Stemmed Pac Choy waiting to go into the garden.
Sprouts: When I plant a row of beets, peas and sunflowers, I usually oversow (is that a word?) so that I can harvest the young seedlings for salad. Once I built my lettuce table, I deliberately planted a few rows for sprouts only! The beet ones are especially flavourful!
Swiss chard: I was harvesting Swiss chard well into the fall last year. Sometimes it was the only salad green I had to use at that point. I grow a variety – ‘Rainbow’, ‘Peppermint’, etc. All are delicious.
Spinach: This is a great crop for shadier areas and I love the flavour of the fresh baby leaves. Spinach will also tolerate a bit of shade!