Monday, 27 February 2012

52 Week Salad Challenge - February

I'm still reaping the benefits of last year's winter salad planning so there still has been no need to plant anything (Danger! Complacency!) The amount of salad I'm picking is ridiculous - despite the cold snap.

I was expecting losses; a polytunnel is only a large cloche not a heated greenhouse so the temperature does drop - I checked my thermometer and found it had got down to minus eight at its lowest - plants that can't withstand that must be snuggled into fleece if they're going to survive.

I'm not a snuggling things into fleece sort of gardener so things have to be tough. I've lost three lettuces from the entire crop and that was down to over zealous picking. I must add that these are mostly organic transplants from Delfland Nurseries (I was so busy building the polytunnel I didn't have time to raise my own plants last summer). I highly recommend them - the plants have been bursting with health all winter. This weekend we had a day and a half of sunshine and you could almost see the plants grow. I picked a heaped colander full of leaves - that stuffed two large zip lock bags. It keeps for up to a fortnight in the fridge too.

I thought I'd review the varieties I grew this winter:

  • Land cress - Divine. Hot, peppery, wouldn't be without it. Lots of leaves, packs a real punch in a salad.
  • Wild rocket - The small thin leaved sort. The king of my winter salad. Oodles of tasty leaves with a knock out flavour.
  • Winter purslane - A generous plant giving huge amounts of crunchy, juicy leaves. Bland flavour but the perfect foil to the punchy flavours of the rocket and cress. My kids love it.
  • Lamb's lettuce - I keep growing this because it's easy but I'm not a fan. Winter purslane is tastier and more useful in a salad. I don't think I'll grow this again.
  • Giant red mustard - Lurks in the salad bowl like a silent assassin. Hot as hot. Small quantities are a lovely kick, eat too much and you'll be calling the fire brigade. Eat young and small (mine is now 45cm tall). Another I wouldn't grow again, it's just too hot!
  • Rainbow chard - pretty teeny leaves sing out colourfully from the salad bowl. Slow grower and fairly (usefully) bland. I think this one will kick into growth in a few spring weeks and then I'll have a colourful glut.
  • Spinach - Baby leaves, an absolute must. Again loved by my children. Slower growing, like the chard, but lots of little tasty leaves.
  • Acrtic king lettuce - Lovely frilly leaves, lovely taste, all round lovely lettuce.
  • Other lettuce (lost label) - Tougher leaves than Arctic king so less palatable. Three losses here because they snapped when I was picking them. May improve with some sunshine.
  • Buckler-leaved sorrel (Sarah Raven seed originally I think) - I have loads of this in the garden so I dug up a clump last October and replanted it in the new polytunnel to see what it would do over the winter. It produced lots of lemony leaves without taking a breather even in the coldest of weather. A must in a winter salad.
  • Bulls Blood Beetroot (Tamar Organic seed) - One plant produced enough blood red leaves to liven up a salad. Quite tough if left to grow big so eat small.
  • Curled parsley (plant bought at Narberth Food Fair) - Lovely addition to salads. One plant wasn't really enough but it has kept on growing despite me cutting it right back (to perk up a fish pie)
  • Carrot leaves (Mr Fothergills Early Nantes 5 Seed Tape) - I'd never thought of eating the leaves before (thank you Salad Challenge!) delicious added to salads when small.

These plants obviously have a lot still to give but I plan to plant my usual spring salads soon: Mizuna (to which I'm addicted), pea shoots (I use a sugar snap variety called sweet green) and sunflower (really tasty as baby shoots - as long as the mice don't eat them like they did last year.)

 * This post is for Veg Plotting's 52 Week Salad Challenge. Click this LINK to get lots more advice on growing salads and to see the other participants.


  1. I love your labelled picture and detailed analysis. It goes to show how much variety we can look forward to this time next year.

    BTW I don't think you're cheating at all (as per your comment over at mine)! It's great to have people participating who are all doing different things. We can learn from each other - just as I have done today reading about your sunflower shoots :)

    Interesting what you've said about Lamb's Lettuce - Charles Dowding suggested it as a good doer when I saw him - admittedly that was for crops suitable for outside rather than polytunnel growing. It is rather bland, so I use it as a foil for much stronger flavours such as rocket.

    Thanks for a fab post this month!

  2. Wonderful! I never thought of growing lettuces in our greenhouse (it's really a poly in the shape of a house) and we eat salads every day! Will get some started.

  3. Very inspired. Haven't got a polytunnel but the green house would be fine with things in boxes. Love your labelled picture too. Good stuff.

  4. Wonderful! Glad to know you're srill n your salad days. Or is it salad daze?

  5. Great post!
    I like your labeled salad leaves and analysis. I tasted of my carrot leaves - very pungent! Just a little snip is enough to add 'bite' to a salad.
    Happy Gardening!
    Lea's Menageerie

  6. Thank you for listing all your winter salad plants. Some good suggestions to try here, hopefully!

  7. You have enthused me! I really feel like having a go now having been faintly bored with salad leaves. Great pictures and comments. Brilliant!

  8. Wow, I am very impressed by your picture and detailed analysis of salad leaves. Who knew there were so many?

  9. Your labelled photo is so great! I wondered about baby carrot leaves as the mice certainly love them..could I eat them too? Thank you for writing yes!! Great blog.


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