High summer is a great time to enjoy healthy, tasty salads. At this time of year, it’s relatively quick and easy to have your own salad mix, as seeds should germinate and grow quickly. These are my top tips for growing plants for summer salads.
It’s a nice idea to buy different packs of edible salad leaf seeds, open all of them and mix all the seeds together. This way, you can create your own salad mix. Sow a handful of seeds successionally, say every two weeks, during the summer months, to have a fresh crop maturing as you finish eating the previous crop. You’ll also get a delightful mix growing together all at the same time.
Your customised mix can be sown in pretty containers for your kitchen windowsill, outside the kitchen door or in the garden. Either give them their own dedicated growing space or mixed them withing low growing perennials in a flower border. Do this to create a pretty, French style potager garden.
Take your pick
Mustard leaves, mizuna and mibuna, and different types of lettuce all grow well together. Choose lettuce varieties that will give a visually pleasing mix such as those with frilled or reddish-brown leaves, as well as those with different textures such as cos and romaine.
Other crops that can be grown to add to a salad mix are chard leaves. ‘Bright Lights’ produces a mix of different coloured stems, varying from yellow to red and orange. The leaves are tender picked young, providing a lovely splash of summer colour. In addition, they can also be left to mature to be eaten as a vegetable. Steam or lightly cook freshly washed mature leaves with a little balsamic vinegar and toasted pine nuts and braise the stems to give two very different tasty dishes.
Beetroot leaves are also edible and taste better in salads when the plants are young, again adding a pretty splash of deep aubergine and red colour.
Another way of livening up a homemade salad is to add edible flowers. Viola flowers look very pretty when scattered atop a mixed salad. At this time of year, it’s better to buy the plants rather than sow seed. This is because they’ll be in flower and will continue to bloom until the first frosts if kept watered and flowers regularly picked.
Nasturtiums should flower if seeds are sown now. Too rich a soil will produce more leaves than flowers but if that happens it’s not such a problem as the leaves are edible as well as the flowers. They have quite a distinctively peppery flavour and will liven up any salad.
Creating your own personal salad mixes should delight your family and friends alike as well as giving you the personal satisfaction of having easily created something beautiful looking as well as being tasty.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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