Winter can be a miserable time when it comes to salads. I normally find myself resorting to the supermarket bag jobs, which much like my winter commuter bike, are very functional during the colder months, but definitely lack that excitement and zest of their summer alternatives.
So yes, winter is rubbish for salads.
Or so I thought.
A few years ago, I discovered oriental salads, and in particular the mibuna and mizuna varieties.
These salad leaves share one fantastic quality: they’re hardy as they come, which means that a late summer sowing will provide you with mibuna and mizuna salad leaves well into winter. In fact, in the past only a prolonged spell of snow has killed my crops off.
I have successfully protected my rows of salad with a cloche too, and of course if you’ve got a greenhouse, the leaves are likely to last until the end of winter.
Taste wise, mibuna and mizuna carry a punchy, peppery flavour which adds a delicious twist to salads and sandwiches alike. Both mibuna and mizuna are cut and come again varieties too, so regular harvests will keep the supply coming.
Like most other salads, M & M (I’m going to start calling them this now, I’m bored of typing out the full names!) are easy to grow too. It’s a simple as scattering seeds in a groove, covering with soil and watering. Watch out for even distribution of the little seeds to make sure that you get a consistent row of leaves, rather than a patchy one, try not to sow too early either, as dry conditions can cause the plants to bolt early.
What’s the Difference Between the Two?
So if both these salads are oriental in origin, peppery in taste and winter hardy, one must ask: what is the difference? Mizuna has spiky shaped leaves, whilst Mibuna leaves are more rounded.
And there’s the ‘b’ and the ‘z’, obviously.
Other Winter Leaves
I’ve also grown other salad leaves into winter time with success. I’ve found radicchio to be very hardy, especially if used as a cut and come again variety rather than leaving to grow on into a full lettuce.
The brilliantly named green in snow, another oriental salad, has complemented my M & M crops in the past, although this is a trickier variety to get hold of.
Another easy but effective salad bulker is chard, which can be grown as normal but the leaves nipped off when they are small rather than letting them grow on to full size. Again, chard is a cut and come again crop, so the more you pick, the more it will produce.
Chard can taste a little earthy but the leaves are sweetened by a frost, so it is wise to let Jack visit before picking.