27 Apr 2013

Salad Days are here again

The 52 Week Salad Challenge was pioneered last year by Michelle over at Veg Plotting. The challenge is to grow and eat home-grown salad for as many weeks as you can in the year, hopefully for a full year (even in winter!).  Participants in The Challenge share growing tips and blog posts once a month. I thought I'd missed the boat but the challenge is being run again this year (back by popular demand!) and apparently it's never too late to join in.

I didn't grow any salad last year (the less said about that, the better).  This year the idea of growing a variety of salad leaves has taken hold in my imagination, prompted by Michelle's challenge and Naomi's descriptions of the leaves she's growing.  So, in mid-March I sowed a few seeds in a windowsill propagator, topped it off with perlite and kept the container rotated towards the light.

First salad leaves sown mid-March

I'd intended to start by growing a few baby salad leaves from outdated seeds but, 4 weeks after sowing, they'd developed into such sturdy little plants that I've repotted quite a few for growing on outside in the garden.  These are beetroot leaves, Saladin (Cos type lettuce), Cavolo Nero kale, Lollo Rosso lettuce.

Transplanted first leaves

Having delved back into my seedbox, I've come up with what I hope will be an interesting mix of leaves for my challenge.

Buttercrunch - an all year round butterhead and Little Gem Cos (Pennard's Heritage seeds)
Mizuna - finely cut leaves, good flavour
Lamb's Lettuce - leaves with a delicate flavour
Bijou - A splash of colour from red frilly leaves.
Lobjoits Green Cos - a tall crisp lettuce, sweet and crisp.
Mixed red leaves, especially for containers.
Mustard - for oriental colour and bite!
Salad Rocket, Purple Choysum and Bull's Blood beetroot leaves (Jekka McVicar seeds)
Salad Burnet (cucumber flavoured herb), Broadleaf Sorrel (tangy leaves) (More Veg seeds)

Salad seed selection

I've never been averse to chucking a few baby spinach or orach leaves into a salad either.

I always grow nasturtiums, they look so pretty and are very effective at attracting aphids away from other veg;  the leaves and flowers are edible or can be made into pesto so I've grown extra this year.  So far I have Black Velvet, Blue Pepe, Empress of India and Tom Thumb Alaska. Most will go outside into the veg patch but a few are now earmarked for the salad challenge.

Nasturtium leaves

Carrots are another interesting one ... I wasn't going to bother with growing carrots this year although I enjoyed the Little Fingers carrots that I grew in pots last year but then I read that young carrot leaves can be eaten as a salad leaf so they're now back on the sowing plan.  I'm looking forward to seeing whether there is any truth in that and will let you know soon!


16 comments:

  1. That is quite a choice you have growing there - should make for some interesting salads.

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    1. I thought I'd go for a visual treat, Elaine. If it works, I'll have a good mix of colour, texture and taste. I always throw herbs into my salads as well (love the taste of coriander!) and, if the slugs can be kept away, lettuces always look so lovely growing.

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  2. I'm not that fussed about lettuces and the like so I tend just to grow one row of mixed varieties. It'll be interesting to see how you fare with the challenge.
    As usual I'll be growing lots of nasturtiums, and I'm trying 'Little Fingers' carrots in a container. Flighty xx

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    1. I think that's been my problem in the past, Flighty. Too many limp leaves on my plate! That's partly why I thought I'd grow my own and see if I can find a good crunchy lettuce. I had a delicious rocket salad for lunch last week when eating out at a local café; the dressing was great and crushed nuts had been added to the mix. It absolutely inspired me! Good luck with your Little Fingers carrots - I found the taste wonderful when I grew them last year! xx

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  3. That's a good mix of leaves that you're growing. We're not huge salad eaters so I don't really grow much. I prefer cut and come again varieties as I can take the amount I need, which is never very much, and allow the plant to carry on growing. It works best this way for me.

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    1. And that's actually a good reason to grow your own lettuce, Jo - you never have to have salad going off in the fridge as you can pick exactly what you need. (I absolutely hate wasting money!) I do feel better for eating more really fresh produce so I'm hoping that growing a variety of salad will encourage me to eat it more often!

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  4. MASSES of salads! Having missed the challenge last year, you're certainly going for it now! I didn't know about carrot leaves. If they taste like carrots they would be a good addition to the list. Tempted by that idea.

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    1. Lucy, as soon as I have some to taste I'll let readers know! I love to introduce the idea of new tastes to people and, as Flighty says above, carrots are a great veg to grow in containers if you're short of space or don't need hundreds of the things. Are you tempted by the salad challenge?

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  5. I love your pictures Caro (I do look on flickr too)so nice of you to reply to all the comments also, a nice touch

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    1. Aww, thank you, David. Although it's time consuming, I love it when people comment, especially when I read their blogs or am introduced to new blogs through comments. It's what makes writing the posts worthwhile! Thanks also for following the progress of my Flickr account - there's often more photos there than I have room for on the blog. C x

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  6. Oh you are certainly off to a great start Caro with plenty of potential variety and colour on your plate. After seeing your
    Blue Pepe nasturtiums last year I tracked some seed down :) I must confess to being slightly confused by carrot leaves as an edible as some sources describe them as toxic, but I'm sure that I bought a packet of edible carrot leaf last year from a reputable nursery. Don't think that I got round to sowing them though so they are still lurking in the seed box. Look forward to reading your findings.

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    1. Ooh, you've got me thinking now, Anna. I had to look up toxic carrot leaves but so far have not found any conclusive evidence. On the contrary, the controversy seems to derive from carrots being in the same genus as hemlock, the plants being very similar in the wild. As I'm very sure of the seeds that I've sown, I'm going to go ahead and try this - but don't worry if the blog goes quiet, it will just be me sowing seed rather than writing!! I'm not sure, from what I've read, that carrot greens are greatly nutritious or tasty; only one way to find out!

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  7. What a wonderful mix of flavours - and textures. I haven't sown any nasturtiums yet, which is annoying, but I do have some lettuces growing away, and rocket, spinach, mizuna and mibuna waiting to harden off. I have this plant for growing edible flowers this year, and have marigolds in hand, but have unacountably lost my borage seeds... Ah well - a phrase I seem to be using a lot lately!!

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    1. I wouldn't worry about being late with sowing nasturtiums, Janet. I'm sure there's loads in my garden from last year but haven't seen any sprouting outdoors yet. Even last year, the nasturtiums I planted as aphid defence for my broad beans didn't grow properly until after I'd harvested the beans - duh!! My lettuces are all growing away nicely and, as we've had some fabulously warm weather recently, I'm even going to sow some outdoors. I should probably then stand back and wait for rain and slugs, that being the way of things in a gardener's life ... ;)

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  8. Well, I've never thought about eating my nasturtiums before! I love the way they shoot out their little pods each year. I bury them in strategic places and they seem to keep coming back, not quite where I buried them which is odd but nevertheless they do come back. Maybe I will see them in a whole new light now, especially if I'm feeling peckish!! :)

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    1. They're quite peppery and you need to get the baby leaves and gorgeous flowers for a salad, Anna... that is, if you can sacrifice them from the garden. I really love the look of nasturtiums tumbling all over the place but they do take over! Your travelling seed pods may be as the result of ants moving them - no, seriously! There are some plants that have a symbiotic relationship with ants and survive because ants carry the dropped seeds away from the plant, therefore ensuring the genetic survival of the mother plant. I learned that at college. I worry that my brain will sometimes just be too full up with plant info to absorb anything more!

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