Su­per sal­ads

Kim Stod­dart’s choices

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month -

At this ex­cit­ing time of year, with in­creas­ing ger­mi­na­tion rates as the day­light hours lengthen and the soil warms, my thoughts quickly turn to the vast ar­ray of sal­ads that can eas­ily and pro­duc­tively now be grown. Pick and come again va­ri­eties are al­ways a per­sonal favourite. You get more leaf for less ef­fort, and they can keep on grow­ing / be har­vested for longer than a com­pact va­ri­ety such as ice­berg, which also re­quires fairly ex­act­ing grow­ing con­di­tions. For me, a sum­mer salad just isn’t com­plete with­out an ex­cit­ing, colour­ful ar­ray of leaves and herby, flo­ral ed­i­ble ad­di­tions. It takes salad eat­ing onto a whole other level of en­joy­ment, leav­ing child­hood mem­o­ries of bland, bor­ing leaves firmly be­hind. With ease of grow­ing and max­i­mum culi­nary po­ten­tial in mind, here’s my pick of the most re­li­able (and in­deed de­li­cious) leaves to grow:

Salad bowl

An in­cred­i­bly easy, fast-grow­ing, widely avail­able va­ri­ety which comes in a choice of red or green leaf. I wouldn’t be with­out it.

Lollo Rosso

This Ital­ian clas­sic comes in a vi­brant, frilly red.

Cos / Ro­maine

Th­ese tall leaves, most com­monly known as a sta­ple of Cae­sar salad have a lovely crisp tex­ture and flavour that makes them an ex­cel­lent ad­di­tion. They are widely avail­able to buy.

Rocket

I named my gar­den­ing school af­ter this de­light­fully punchy lit­tle salad leaf, I like it so much. Sure, it bolts given the first op­por­tu­nity, but then that’s just an ex­cuse to eat the pretty lit­tle white flow­ers it pro­duces and sow some more.

Basil

A taste of sum­mer as far as I’m con­cerned, and there­fore a sum­mer salad bowl must. If you find it hard to ger­mi­nate, try buy­ing in a su­per­mar­ket herb pot, gently sep­a­rate the roots and plant out the many basil seedlings therein about your plot.

Viet­namese Co­rian­der/ Co­rian­der

Co­rian­der has a ten­dency to bolt quickly so re­quires re­peated sow­ings to en­joy its del­i­cate cit­rusy flavour. Viet­namese Co­rian­der, on the other hand, is a re­la­tion to the Ja­panese knotweed and is hardy as hell, much eas­ier to grow and equally de­li­cious.

Fen­nel

I love the taste of fen­nel bulb, but the feath­ery fronds of the leaf are most en­joyed chopped finely for added aniseed flavour and tex­ture.

Chive

An­other veg patch stal­wart in my opin­ion, with many culi­nary uses. Chive is a slight thug – keen to spread it­self out given half the chance – but when cut back rig­or­ously, it can be kept in check. It’s well worth the ef­fort for the de­li­cious oniony stems and beau­ti­ful pur­ple flow­ers that are guar­an­teed to im­press.

Pars­ley

This vi­ta­min-C-packed herb is used in my house at each and ev­ery op­por­tu­nity and its flatleaf or curly leaves work well cut chopped small and sprin­kled in with salad.

Nas­tur­tium

Use­ful as a com­pan­ion plant on your veg patch, the ed­i­ble leaves and pretty red flow­ers have an al­most pep­pery flavour that can help jazz up a dish no end. They will self-seed and spread with aban­don once es­tab­lished on your plot, but it’s an in­cred­i­bly use­ful plant which is also good for the in­testi­nal health of your poul­try to boot, so do re­mem­ber to pass some on!

Sor­rel

This hardy peren­nial leaf has a fab­u­lous, tangy flavour which works well in salad, as well as many other dishes.

Chicory

Used widely across Europe, this plant is also eas­ily grown in the UK and pro­duces lovely ro­bust leaves which are ideal as a colour­ful (and flavour­some) ad­di­tion to salad. Do let some grow on and flower whilst you’re at it, as the re­sult­ing del­i­cate lit­tle blue flow­ers are divine. It’s harder to buy in the UK, so worth not­ing that Real Seeds sell Tri­este Sweet which is ideal as a pick and come again salad leaf. Their Ma­genta Magic Orach and Bianca Ric­cia da Taglio salad En­dive are also worth try­ing. www.re­alseeds.co.uk

Pick and come again va­ri­eties are al­ways a per­sonal favourite.

Plant­ing out salad bowl INSET: Ital­ian let­tuce seeds

Chive flow­ers look de­light­ful

Just picked salad leaves

A chicory flower head

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