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Leaves of class

December 1, 2009

This will be a short post. I just wanted to show off the salad leaves grown in our garden. If I could only grow one thing, salad leaves would be it. These days it’s not hard to find beautiful tomatoes (in season), good herbs and so on; but there is absolutely nothing like the texture of salad leaves eaten within half an hour of picking – they are satiny, springy, silky and full of fresh flavour. Truly. Do it.

We have the little lettuces and clumps of sorrel and leafy whatnots sprinkled about the garden (and when I say ‘garden’ I mean 4m x 5m paved courtyard!)  in among the other plants, and around the base of some small trees in pots. All they need is a good bit of sun and decent watering and a feed of seaweed stuff & worm juice now and then and they go ballistic. (Jamie, any other growing hints?)

To harvest, we use the cut-and-come-again method, just snipping off the outside leaves as needed, and gathering a mixture of different types of lettuce, some Asian salad greens, a bit of cress, some tiny beetroot leaves and a few herb leaves (basil, mint) each time. There are weeks when there’s nothing to take, of course, and then there is the time of plenty – best to stagger the plantings and plant new seedlings every three or four weeks.

As soon as the lettuces start to go to seed – when they grow tall and gangly – the leaves begin to turn bitter, and I think that inadequate watering makes them bolt faster, so keep the water up and keep nibbling away at the outer leaves to get the best crop.

Once I pick them as close to eating as possible, I stick them in this mini-sinkful of cold water for a good 10 minutes or so (ice cubes in the water if it’s a really hot day) and then spin them in the salad spinner (another girl’s best friend in the kitchen) to dry as much as possible, before either eating or tossing into a zip-seal plastic bag with plenty of air in it in the fridge.

To me, the perfect salad dressing is 3 parts best olive oil to 1 part best balsamic vinegar, plenty of salt and pepper. But other friends make gorgeous dressings, especially my friend E, whose dressings I think always include raspberry vinegar. E, if you’re out there, can you provide your secret? And the Empress is a fan of a little walnut oil in her dressing, I believe? And what about the rest of you; what makes your green salad spin?

3 comments

  1. Your salad post is perfectly timed as I am about to install a mini – salad/herb garden on my balcony. I have failed miserably on one or two prior occassions, by being too distracted to keep up the regular watering, I have just invested in a water system call wet pots which is a gravity fed system (we have no water on our balcony), using these little terra cotta pod things which let the water slowly seep into the soil.
    http://www.wetpots.com/index.html

    Re the rasberry vinegar – by an amazing coincidence I was in the Southern Highlands recently & made sure I went to the farm where my special RV is grown and produced. What makes this one so special is that a lot of the rasberry vinegars you can buy are a mixture of ordinary vinegar and rasberry juice. Whereas this one is distilled? from the actual rasberries. It’s so beautifully syrupy you could be tempted to use on icecream, although I did also buy their rasberry topping which is scrumptious. They haven’t got any distribution outlets yet so I bought up big while I was there to give as christmas pressie to my family. http://www.montroseberryfarm.com.au

    Charlotte your 3 to 1 ratio vinegar to oil is what I usually do although sometimes I’ve done 2 to 1 and that works as well.


  2. Hmm all very enlightening, Ms E. Will be watching your salady balcony yield with interest (btw did you know Indira Naidoo of SBS news fame has a blog about her edible balcony garden? It’s here – http://saucyonion.blogspot.com/2009/11/edible-balcony-vegie-update.html)

    And I will be looking out for the real deal raspberry vinegar. Off to check your links now.


  3. I’m a three-to-one dressing person, too. Works for me.
    And Charlotte, you need no salad growing tips. You’ve graduated! Grow on.
    And thanks for the link to Indira Naidoo’s blog. (I’m growing a native Aussie water fern called Nardoo in my potted water garden, and I’ve named the plant Indira).



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