Make fantastic garden salads

Start with basic greens

For leafy green garden salads, there’s a lot to work with. There are different varieties of lettuce, arugula, baby beet greens, baby Swiss chard, mizuna, turnip tops, spinach, radicchio, mustard, dandelion, baby kale, endive, and more. The range of flavors available is fantastic. See what you like.

Remember that the raw taste of a particular green you may not love at first taste, where in combination with other ingredients, and tossed together with dressing, the taste contribution may be outstanding.

Greens don’t last forever, so consider starting with just a few. For example, you could start with heads of green and red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, spinach, and parsley. For regular salads, having a steady stock of what you like best, say, lettuces and spinach, and trying out a one or two new things at a time, like a head of radicchio or a bundle of dandelion leaves.

Baby greens: Baby greens are popular – they’re leaves harvested when small, typically, 20-30 days old (compared to around 45-60 days for maturity). With some plants, like kale and chard, the mature leaves are tougher and stronger-tasting, and baby leaves may make sense for your tastes. For other plants, cutting or tearing up mature leaves works fine – that’s normal for lettuces. Maturer leaves often offer more flavor, and a heartier texture – simply tear them up to bite-sized. Leaves that mature quite tough, like kale, can be chopped up and sprinkled in for a different effect.

Bagged greens: Premixed, ready-to-eat salad mixes definitely seem convenient, and some of the ingredient lists are impressive. Prepared greens are also expensive, compared to DIY, and supermarket versions can be rather bland compared to to just-harvested greens from your own garden or local growers. I use bagged greens at times in our cold winter, when the fresh choices aren’t great, but I find there’s way more taste and overall satisfaction in preparing from scratch when good ingredients are readily available.

Exotic choices: Exotic could mean what you’re not familiar with, or just hard to find where you live. For the unfamiliar, thoroughly check through your supermarket produce section to see what you may have overlooked. Do the same if you have a local farmers’ market. Maybe check in with friendly neighbors who vegetable garden, or visit the community gardens. What about growing your own? With limited space, you could buy the bulk of your everyday greens, and grow only special items – for example, seed a couple of mizuna plants every week in a windowbox, for a full season supply.

Making fantastic salads is a time-saver, nutrition-booster, enjoyment-enhancer, AND it doesn’t require a lifestyle makeover. Common-sense thinking about ingredients is all that it takes.

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