I was about seven I think when I first fell in love with leaves. I made a den with a blanket, and made the witches cups of tea with a mismatched tea set. When not in the woods or transporting froglets to hastily made pop up ponds, I was an avid reader of Enid Blyton. I particularly loved her books about goblins. I remember staying quiet for hours hoping to catch a glimpse of the pixies that I was convinced lived in the ferns.
I was always happiest muddy, with twigs in my curls. Here I am all these years later surrounded by leaves, happiest muddy with twigs in my curls. Huh.
I’ve been growing salad for the café for nearly three years now, and must have trialled hundreds of varieties. I still grow far too many varieties really, but during the winter months when you start to tire of the endless kale and grey days its lovely to harvest a fresh, interesting, delicious and pretty salad. It’s a known fact that shop bought non-organic bags of salad can contain lots of toxins and pesticides.
I am passionate about growing your own food, but especially salad because it’s so easy, extremely nutritious and the seeds are very affordable.
Here’s the recipe for growing a stonking salad all year round.
Marvel of four seasons – Great basic red butter head.
Mustard – Red Frills – beautiful, wispy and peppery. Grow from autumn to spring otherwise it will bolt.
Radichetta – Oak leaf with a strong flavour.
Black Seeded Simpson – Loose leaved, gold tones, really tasty.
Endive – Adds crunch and texture. Choose a mixed endive seed selection.
Rocket – Summer grow ‘Wild’ rocket and in the winter ‘Discovery’.
Burnet – Great flavour and adds interest and texture with its unique leaf structure.
Spinach – ‘Red Kitten’ harvest small as baby leaf, astonishingly pretty in winter and spring
Corn Salad – Invaluable during the winter months.
Here at Darsham we grow salad outside all year round, but in November I sow all of these varieties (and more!) into containers in the polytunnel. If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse, and have growbags left over from summer crops then these are ideal for planting winter salads.
Nasturtiums can be sown here too, a couple of warm days and they will germinate and grow all winter long, you won’t get any flowers but the leaves have a great flavour.
In addition to the above, it’s fun to mix together in a sandwich bag all your left-over leafy seeds. Pac choi, kale, chard, spinach, lettuce, radish, and mustards. Sow a tray of these each week and just snip them when they are about an inch high, this adds new flavours and looks fab.
For a Darsham effect, invest in a couple of edible flower plants. I recommend voilas in winter and calendulas in summer, adding the washed flowers just before serving.