Let­tuce en­joy fresh salad

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Peter Cun­dall

MOST salad plants are among the eas­i­est to grow. We can even grow a huge se­lec­tion in pots and tubs on bal­conies, path­ways, steps or pa­tios.

All they need is rea­son­able soil, a bit of care, reg­u­lar wa­ter­ing and plenty of sun­light.

Th­ese sim­ple plants are best eaten raw and it is among the sim­ple plea­sures of life to be able to pop out­doors to har­vest a suit­able va­ri­ety to pre­pare a fresh, crunchy salad in a mat­ter of min­utes.

Luck­ily, most pop­u­lar salad veg­eta­bles not only grow fast but are easy to pre­pare and be­cause they are eaten raw re­main crammed with vi­ta­mins and min­er­als.

Let­tuces are a dream to grow. We can raise them from di­rectly- sown seed or buy pun­nets of sturdy seedlings.

Avoid big, floppy- leaved seedlings be­cause they are more likely to col­lapse when planted out dur­ing warm, sunny weather.

There is usu­ally a choice of red, pur­ple or Ital­ian Oak­leaf va­ri­eties for cut- and- comea­gain har­vest­ing.

Th­ese use­ful let­tuce plants take up lit­tle space and are ready for a first pick­ing in six weeks, then con­tinue to pro­vide non- stop sup­plies of leaves for at least another month.

For big, crunchy let­tuces, grow a se­lec­tion of tight- hearted crisp­heads such as Great Lakes or Red Mignonette which are har­vested en­tire with a sin­gle cut.

Let­tuces love soil en­riched with high­ni­tro­gen fer­tilis­ers such as chook ma­nure or di­luted fish emul­sion.

Plant seedlings about 200mm apart, prefer­ably in late af­ter­noon and by morn­ing, most will have set­tled in.

Keep well- wa­tered and boost growth with di­luted fish emul­sion. When ap­proach­ing ma­tu­rity keep well sup­plied with wa­ter.

Ja­panese turnips are un­be­liev­ably pro­lific. They are best grown from seed di­rectly where they are to be har­vested.

Tokyo Cross is crisp and tasty and ma­tures in weeks. The seedlings ap­pear in a few days and usu­ally need thin­ning. Within a few weeks the white tasty roots can be plucked from the ground for de­li­cious eat­ing, whole or sliced.

Radishes are ideal for in­tro­duc­ing chil­dren into grow­ing food plants.

Al­low even the lit­tle ones to sow some seeds be­cause re­wards come quickly as the plants are up and grow­ing in days.

In less than a month most radishes are ready for lift­ing, wash­ing and eat­ing.

I love the won­der­ful Ja­panese Daikon the gi­ant white radish.

They can grow half a me­tre long yet re­main glo­ri­ously ten­der and sweet. All they need is good drainage, lots of wa­ter and a weekly feed with liq­uid ma­nure.

Cabbages make great sal­ads and luck­ily there are now many space- sav­ing va­ri­eties de­signed to grow fast.

Worth try­ing are some of the small, com­pact, red cab­bage hy­brids. They are quickly raised from seed and seedlings trans­planted about one- third of a me­tre apart in a rich, fer­tile soil.

In about 10 weeks the solid, beau­ti­fully-flavoured and colour­ful heads are ready for har­vest­ing.

Asian cabbages such as Wong Bok Hy­brid are ready for munch­ing in about 60 days.

Cel­ery is eas­ily grown from seed, the trick be­ing to keep the seedling- rais­ing mix quite wet. I sit pre­pared pun­nets in a lit­tle wa­ter and the young seedlings come up like grass, ready for trans­plant­ing, six to a pun­net.

In the gar­den, cel­ery plants thrive in well-limed, en­riched soils with con­stant wa­ter­ing. In fact the plants are al­most im­pos­si­ble to over­wa­ter when grow­ing cel­ery.

I add di­luted sea­weed con­cen­trate and fish emul­sion ev­ery week and the speed of growth is in­cred­i­ble. How­ever, the soil around cel­ery plants must never be al­lowed to dry out as it causes them to im­me­di­ately bolt use­lessly to seed.

Spring onions can be grown as eas­ily as lawn grass, best of all from di­rectly- sown seed.

There are sev­eral va­ri­eties avail­able, but those with bright red stems look bril­liant in a salad.

I sprin­kle a dou­ble- hand­ful of dolomite lime­stone over a wide strip of soil half a me­tre long and rake it in.

I also mix three pack­ets of spring onion seed into a jar con­tain­ing a cup of dolomite, shake to mix, then sprin­kle the lot over the pre­pared strip.

A thin layer of fine soil is enough to cover and the bed is then deeply wa­tered. Within 10 days the ground erupts with closely- packed, spring onion seedlings. And they are ready to har­vest in six to eight weeks.

Th­ese quick- grown veg­eta­bles are per­fect for sum­mer sal­ads. All can be avail­able for har­vest­ing within a few me­tres of the din­ing ta­ble. What more could any­one want?

FRESH AND SIM­PLE: Red Mignonette let­tuces is per­fect for tasty sum­mer sal­ads.

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