Your own signature salad straight from your garden
By HUGH G. EARNHART
OSU master gardener volunteer
The next time you are in a restaurant take a look at the medley of tender greens that are displayed in your dinner salad.
They are easy-to-grow plants that are attractive in the garden, raised bed or container. They do not take a lot of room and provide delicious eating over a fairly long period.
These quick-growing salad greens you pay a premium for in the supermarket can be grown easily and inexpensively at home.
Considered exotic only a decade or two ago, many different types of salad greens are now readily available as seeds or even transplants to grow in your garden.
Small greens are easy to grow and can be planted just about anywhere you can find a spot, whether it’s a garden place, a raised bed not too far from the kitchen, or a series of pots on the patio. You can even get a crop of lettuce in two or three 16- to 18-inch hanging baskets.
To a salad chef there is more to a great salad than iceburg lettuce and tough romaine. The specialty greens, such as butter head lettuce, arugula and radicchio are more creative, colorful and usually have more flavor and texture, making a salad more appetizing in appearance and taste.
Before planting, it’s best to try several different ready-to-eat salad mixes to determine what blends you and your family like best.
The ritual to mastering your own signature salad is to begin with an assortment of tender greens and red leaf lettuces, adding romaine or a Batavia-type (French crisp or summer crisp) lettuce for extra crunch.
Good choices for green leaf lettuces include Perilla, Tango, Royal Oak Leaf and Salad Bowl. Red leaf lettuces that are great to grow include Red Oak Leaf, Ruby Glow, Red Sails, Lollo Rossa and Sunfire. For romaine, try Freckles, Devil Tongue, Green Forest and Vivian. Outstanding Batavia types include Cardinal, Sierra and Loma.
To give the salad some accent add greens that provide an extra level of color and texture. Toss in a mild and buttery flavor spinach, red orach or Swiss chard for starters. Then add a hint of mustard flavor with kale, tatsoi or mizuna. Finish off with leeks, peppers or nasturtiums to provide a hot flavor to the salad bowl.
For details on growing lettuce, visit http://go.osu.edu/growlettuce.