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 the 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.
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 the 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.