Need some ideas of which lettuces to grow this year, or which leafy veg can add variety and flavour to summer salads? Then look no further – this week’s #BritishVeg hour has it covered…
There are so many lettuce varieties available it can be difficult to pick just one or two, but highly recommended are –
‘Little gem’ – a small cos variety with a good flavour
‘Green Salad Bowl’ – a good variety for sowing thickly to produce baby leaves, it can be harvested as cut and come again leaves
‘Lollo rosso’ – the crinkled, red leaves add colour to salads
‘Black Seeded Simpson’ – crunchy, tasty and hardy enough to grow as a winter lettuce
Other salad leaves
Then to add some colour, texture and different flavours, why not try growing –
Rocket – peppery flavour, easy to grow, although it tends to bolt in warm weather
Lamb’s lettuce – mild flavoured, and a good leaf for winter salads
Mustards, pak choi and other oriental leaves – easy to grow, add variety of flavour and texture. Sow thickly and pick as baby leaves. These leaves seem to be less attractive to slugs
Chard – why isn’t this vegetable more popular? It has a long harvest season, the young leaves can be picked for salads, and larger leaves cooked and used as you would spinach. The range of stem colours adds to visual appeal of salads. It’s also good in soups, risottos and lentil dishes
Bull’s blood beet – good in a mixed leaf salad, has a nice ‘earthy’ flavour
Strawberry spinach – leaves can be eaten like spinach
Amaranth, perilla and golden purslane to add variety to a salad mix
Borage leaves – hairy but edible (they have a slight cucumber flavour). Use in a salad or steam them then fry in olive oil
Spinach – recommended varieties were ‘Missouri’, which is high yielding, has good sized leaves and will overwinter undercover, and ‘Mikado’, slow to bolt and should be good for summer growing. Perpetual spinach is also good for summer harvests
Pea shoots – another easy to grow veg. Sow peas thickly into compost in pots or boxes, keep watered and harvest the tips as they develop. The variety to use seems to depend on what you have to hand – Stephen thought that ‘Douce Provence’ might produce nice fleshy shoots.
And if you’re looking to grow something a bit different, why not try cardoons for a late summer/autumn veg (the leaves are edible, but need to be blanched), or seakale.
Most growers start salad leaves off in modules, or in seed trays then prick out the young plants into modules. Sowing undercover extends the season, young plants can be planted outside when they are big enough to stand a chance against the slugs. Module sowing can be supplemented with direct sowings outdoors.
Tamsin recommends growing cut and come again leaves in recycled polystyrene boxes. These boxes can also be used for growing pea tips.
Seeds are easy to get hold of, recommended suppliers include –
Kings seeds – for a good range of well priced seeds
Tozers – again a good choice of seeds, and they hold a good autumn open day
Seeds of Italy – not wholesale, but good quantities of seed in packets, high germination rates and good service
Growing microgreens for a market needs some planning – getting the timing right is key. For inspiration and to see how it’s done, Tamsin recommends Ken Holland at North Country Organics, and Stephen mentioned the garden at Le Manoir.
Microleaves can be grown in punnets and sold as growing leaves once they reach the first true leaf stage. Compost is the best growing medium to use to get good flavour from the young leaves. Some basal heat can help growth, especially in the cooler months.
Salads to try growing as microleaves include, radish, mustards, amaranth and red-veined sorrel.
Next week’s #BritishVeg will cover carrots and beetroot. What are your favourite varieties, do you grow them as baby veg, any problems with pests and diseases? Everyone is welcome to join in on Tuesday, 8-9pm – whether you have questions or can help out with answers, #BritishVeg hour on Twitter is becoming a great source of information for all veg growers.