Monday, January 14, 2013

Growing Edible Greens this Winter

This article was written by Casey, she has a passion for herbs, succulents and learning more about gardening. While putting the nursery back together after Christmas Casey has had a chance to really see what we sell. She saw that the lettuces were quick sellers thus she did a little research on different varieties and would like to share her findings with you. Enjoy your salad.

Gardener’s Salad: So many greens to choose from!

Welcome winter time in San Diego with some cool season greens sure to perk up any salad!  We’ve just gotten in some novel edible greens as well as an interesting assortment of lettuces.  The lower temps we’ve been experiencing might be a little chilly for most San Diegans, but lettuces and their counterparts are slower to bolt (go to seed) in the cooler weather.  Insect pests like leaf miner, aphids, and whitefly are also less active during the winter. Another highlight to growing lettuce and greens is that they will grow quite well in the shade, so you can tuck them nearly anywhere in the garden to harvest year round.  To harvest evenly and discourage bolting, just give your plants a “flat top” hair cut about an inch from the soil, leaving the budding centers to re-grow for your next salad.  With so many varieties of leafy greens to choose from, it’s easy to have a gourmet array growing right in your own backyard!

Right now MHN has some delicious choices for lettuce in six packs.  Red Fire has soft green ruffles brushed with red at the edges. It’s attractively colored curly leaves would be a perfect addition to a baby leaf salad.  Freckles is a fun romaine type lettuce that has a scattering of red speckles over each crunchy leaf.  Its upright growing habit means you can harvest mature heads at 55 days or enjoy it earlier as baby lettuce.  Or, try a selection of lettuce types at once with a six pack of Bistro Blend.  The lettuce seedlings sprouting up vary in color from deep purple-red Rouge D’Hiver and Red Salad Bowl to green Parris Island Cos and Oak Leaf lettuce.  We also currently offer Oak Leaf Lettuce in 4 inch pots.
Spice up salad time with greens that have some kick.  Osaka Purple Mustard is beautifully hued and mildly spicy with a wasabi like flavor.  Oakleaf Arugula has eye-catching lobed leaves, while frilly Frisee has a cheery textured appearance.  Give Italian favorite Silene a place in your garden this season, and enjoy the slightly herbal flavor of its mild green leaves, similar to arugula or chicory.  Harvest the young leaves early for salads, saut├ęs and omelets, and then enjoy the delicate fringed, bell shaped white flowers it puts out in late spring/early summer.  Red Rib Italian Dandelion is a striking contrasting green to add to your salad or used in light cooking.
And don’t forget, there’s always space on a windowsill to grow your own sprouts.  A staff favorite for sprouting are the Sunflower Microgreens from Botanical Interest.  These 100% organic seeds are sprouted and ready to be picked in just about a week after planting….and of course have the appealing texture of fresh sprouts with the toothsome taste of sunflower seeds!  What a great combo.  We also carry Spicy Microgreens and a mix of Sandwich Sprouts.  Be sure to ask about our seed trays and Seed Starter planting medium to get your seedlings off to a sure start.  Happy Gardening!