Real Men Sow

Bulking Up My Salads With Perpetual Spinach

perpspinHave you ever thought of bulking up your salad with other leaves, such as perpetual spinach?

Well, I hadn’t, until recently when I found myself wondering what to do with some spare spinach seedlings I’d planted out. The baby leaves were perfect salad size, so I tried them in amongst my summer mixed salad. They were great for not only filling up my salad bags, but adding genuine taste too.

As if I ever needed another reason to love this wonderfully reliable and versatile vegetable, I now use the leaves in salads as well as everything else.

To add spinach or chard leaves to a salad had never occurred to me before, which is odd, as look on a back of a supermarket salad bag and the hardy green will regularly be included. The same goes for other allotment regulars, like beetroot leaves, and baby kale.

Kale, Cavolo Nero and other Potential Winter Salads
This got me thinking about winter. The other brilliant thing about perpetual spinach and other chards is that they are winter vegetables, and very hardy with it. They’re also cut and come again, so if I sow enough in late summer, I could have salad leaves all through the winter.

The same goes for kale and cavolo nero. Add these to sowings of oriental salad leaves, such as mibuna, and the winter salad pickings go from slim to plentiful.

Sowing Now
I’m not going to wait until winter to try these leaves in my salad though. This weekend, I’ve sown some rhubarb chard, kale and cavolo nero in the same way in which I did my perpetual spinach. I sowed seeds thinly in a 10cm pot, and once they reach seedling stage, I’ll plant the whole lot out into a bed.

Initially, I did this with perpetual spinach to try and get a head start on this valuable crop. I sowed in pots in my greenhouse, before pricking out and planting into the veg patch. I had a spare pot, and after spending half an hour dibbing seedlings in the ground meticulously, I lazily dumped the contents of the extra pot into the ground. It was only a then did I realise that the leaves might work in a salad mix.

Other leaves I’ve tried in salad recently include lemon balm (tangy, gives a nice citrus lift but rather furry to the mouth) and flat leaf parsley (works well, added this after spotting it in the ingredients on a salad bag).

Any Other Recommendations?
All this salad excitement has ignited my interest in growing leaves. I have always grown a few, but not really explored much further than the generic salad mix packs available from seed companies. The opportunity to mix other crops in with the salad has enlightened me though, as has the realisation that this time of year we eat a lot of salad, and therefore I stand to save a few quid if I grow more!

Does anyone else bulk up their salad with other crops? Herbs maybe? I’d be really interested to hear about a few more to try.

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  1. SparrowgrassMay 27, 2013 at 12:20 pmReply

    Yes, I go round the garden looking for anything edible that I can add to my salad. Herbs (parsley, mint, chives, oregano, basil if there is any, coriander….) , sorrel, lettuce, of course. Don’t tell me you plan on pressing your own olive oil for it, though!

  2. Carole Veggie-Chicken SharpMay 27, 2013 at 11:04 pmReply

    Turnip leaves are good for adding bulk!

  3. JDSMay 28, 2013 at 8:37 amReply

    Pea/Bean shoots are great for bulking up salads.
    I started off eating a few spare pea shoots I had growing, now I seem to always have at least 2 trays of them purely for use in salads.

  4. MarkMay 28, 2013 at 12:01 pmReply

    Nastusions (is that how you spell it?) are always a nice one to have. Not only do they look pretty for the wife and attract flying insects, but the flowers and leaves (I believe) are vert much edible. The flowers have a nice peppery taste and the colour adds interest to any salad.

    Aside from this our salad staple if without doubt rocket!!. An easy to grow winner every time

  5. AdamMay 28, 2013 at 12:34 pmReply

    Perpetual spinach was one of the successes on the plot last year and was often used in salads. Also used as a replacement for lettuce in sandwiches and burgers. Keeps firm for longer and has a much better ‘crunch’. Others I used in salads (as you already mentioned) were beetroot leaves, baby leaves of kale and pak choi.

    • Jono

      JonoMay 28, 2013 at 2:28 pmReplyAuthor

      Wow, thanks everyone! I’ve never heard of using turnip leaves, that’s a new one on me. Are they like beetroot leaves?

      JDS – I’ve read quite a lot about pea shoots and have loads of seeds to use. Think I’m going to give them a go.

      Mark – my mum dropped me some nasturtions around yesterday funnily enough. I’d forgotten about them, my wife likes nasturtions a lot.

      Adam – nice idea, using the spinach in burgers and sandwiches. Will give that a go too.

      Received a great tweet from @ediblethings about eating weeds too. They’re currently tucking into nettles, garlic mustard, wild garlic, hairy bittercress, dandelions and lots of other wild greens.

      • Carole Veggie-Chicken SharpMay 29, 2013 at 8:28 pmReply

        I grow a drawer full of turnip seeds quite thickly, just for the leaves, not the roots. They taste slightly peppery, good texture. Beetroot leaves taste a bit earthy in comparison.

  6. MarkMay 29, 2013 at 12:13 pmReply

    Wild garlic is amazing and in our modern times very unused… a real shame!. Whilst you’re in that headgerow keep an eye out for horseradish. It grows wild in most hedgerows and no one even knows as the leaves look very much like doc leaves. If you do try and make your own creamed horseradish at home just be sure to either open your windows or wear protective eye wear.. it can be quite fierce!!…. but worth it :-)

  7. Martin SearleMay 29, 2013 at 4:01 pmReply


    oriental mixes are great.

    I love red mustard its like a layer of horse radish and perfect for sandwiches.

  8. Jono

    JonoMay 29, 2013 at 5:20 pmReplyAuthor

    Hey Martin! Great to hear from you! I love green in snow, not just for the name, but the fab taste too.

    Mark, you’re not wrong about wild garlic. I struggle to find it around here. When I’ve been in the West Country you can smell it all over the place.

    There is lots of horseradish here though. I’m planning to try that this year. My uncle always used to pick it, and wear goggles when grating the root!

  9. RaySeptember 18, 2013 at 5:41 amReply

    I love winter salads.
    As well as those items listed above I like winter purslane (miner’s lettuce), corn salad (lamb’s lettuce), minutina (buck’s horn) and chicory added to salads. Not too much chicory though as it can be bitter though winter grown tends to the sweet side, especially the sugar loaf types. Sugar is, after all, nature’s great antifreeze!

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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