Try these salads

Published 12:06 am Saturday, April 25, 2015

Spring lettuces make for tasty salads. | Connie Anderson/Star-News

Spring lettuces make for tasty salads. | Connie Anderson/Star-News

This is the time of year to make a salad of lots of different greens. My lettuces are in: Romaine (Cos), Paris Island Cos; Bibb (Butterhead), Buttercrunch; Loose-Leaf, Red Salad Bowl. Romaine is said to be the most nutritious and loose-leaf is second. I now get my seeds from a local hardware store that buys in bulk and packages the seeds. They are cheaper than most other sources. ‘Pinetree’ is the cheapest mail order catalogue. I also like ‘Southern Exposure Seed Exchange’ and ‘Seed Savers Exchange.” I plant lettuce in the fall and it becomes the first to eat in the spring, before the spring seeded lettuces.

The arugula has self-seeded. The Sylvetta (Rucola selvatica, aka Wild Rocket) is almost a perennial but readily self-seeds. The Roquette or Rocket (Eruca sativa) also self-seeds but I need to re-seed it periodically. This second variety has larger leaves. Both are peppery. And I believe my self-seeded plants are better flavored than what can be bought or had in a restaurant. We really like arugula and it lasts longer than the other greens and we often just eat arugula salads with perhaps goat cheese and pine nuts.

The nasturtiums, aka Indian Cress, (Tropaeolum majus) adds a peppery note and the flowers add color. I also plant it in the fall in pots and protect from frosts and also in pots in the spring. I like the variegated Alaska.

Some small kale, (Brassica napus), Red Russian which I have planted is used. I bought plants of Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch and Lacinato last fall which have been good for hardy salads during the winter but alas they are now gone. These coarser greens have long been used in the pot but only more recently have I learned that they make good salads. Lately I have more seen collard salads on some restaurant menus.

Swiss chard remains from over the winter. I had also bought plants of Rainbow Swiss chard last fall and it is doing well.

Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) adds a lemony note. It is a perennial and I also have it from plants. I want some more since I also like it in the form of tarts. The French use it in soups. The form I have is called French sorrel to distinguish it from the wild common sorrel or dock (Rumex acetosella). It does grow wild around here and can also be used.

From the wild I pick violet leaves, but their flowers are not yet in. Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, I use if I can find it. I have tons of weeds here but this famous lawn weed is not that common with me.

Since learning in New Zealand that I can use Gingo leaves, I pick the small new ones. We have one of the largest and oldest Gingos in the United States, planted probably about 1850. The trunk is more than 16 feet in circumference. I would recommend if you don’t have one, to plant a Ginko or Maidenhair tree (Ginko biloba). They make a nice specimen in the lawn but are slow growing. Their singular best feature is fall color. Ours here turns a magnificent yellow on Thanksgiving.

And I have planted some French Breakfast radishes and I have green onions. I also have some violas blooming and calendula, pot marigold, whose flowers are edible and add color more than taste. Young calendula leaves are also edible. I start mine in the fall in pots and protect from frost as I do my nasturtiums. The violas and calendula flowers don’t have much taste. But nasturtium flowers have the same peppery taste as their leaves.

I love mâche or as I first learned of it from a German friend, cornsalad. It is also known as lambs lettuce. It is not tolerant of heat and I don’t have it this year. I need to find a good place to plant it where it can self-seed as it does readily. This has such a sweet, mild flavor it is best eaten alone if you have enough. You can take the whole plant and cut off the roots. This truly needs just a little olive oil.

I like to dress the salad with just olive oil, salt and pepper. You can add a little vinegar or use lemon juice as well. No recipes needed for these salads. Just use what you have in the garden or can find in the yard and go with it!