I love fresh salads. The crisp crunch and complex flavor of just picked lettuce can’t be beat. I like baby greens the best. Here in hot humid Central Florida, lettuce and greens tend to bolt very easily and become bitter and nearly inedible to my palate by the time the majority of the country is just planting their seeds. So for my garden, the best type of salads are the cut-and-come again kind. I can plant my first lettuce and green seeds at the end of October and a second set in December and these will carry me through the cold weather crop season.
This year I planted the last bit of my Summercrisp seeds and mixed lettuce pack I bought several years ago. Unfortunately we had a heavy rain just two days after planting, so most of my seeds were washed away. Thankfully, my beet seeds were larger and took root better, so I’ve been able to rely on baby beet greens for the majority of my salads.
These red stemmed plants are my beets. I’ve cut from these plants many times and have enough to make smoothies and salads a couple times a week. To harvest your lettuce and greens, go outside while the plants are still cool and not wilted by the sun.
Using your fingernails or scissors, cut the largest leaves and a good bit of the stem from the plant.
Be sure to leave a small leaf or two in the middle so the plant will grow back quickly. It may b important to note that if you cut your beet greens frequently, you may not get a harvestable beet root. So if you want a root, set aside some plants for roots and some for greens. You will, of course, be able to use the greens from your harvested beet root, but they may be more suitable for cooking than for salads.
Here is a little loose leaf lettuce plant I’ve already harvested from. You can see the old cut stems near the bottom of the plant from previous harvests. New leaves just keep popping out of the top!
And this is my handful of salad! My soil is quite sandy so I have to wash the leaves well to remove the grit. I like to wash them by floating the lot of them in a bowl of water and swishing them around. The sand falls right off and if there are any little bug on the leaves, they jump ship so as not to drown.
Chop up your washed leaves and any herbs you gathered while in the garden. Carrot stems can count an herb if you grow carrots. They taste like parsley.
This is my beautifully crafted, artisan cutting board made by my Great Uncle. He can work magic with wood. The attention to detail seen in the grain pattern and hue of the wood is remarkable. It makes the pattern look dimensional. His daughter sells them for him in an etsy shop if you’d like to own one yourself. I have two and leave one on the counter all the time because it’s so pretty and handy to have nearby.
I was happy to be able to harvest my first tomato and snap pea to go on my salad. Fresh tomatoes taste like sunshine. I also threw on a couple chamomile flowers for beauty and a bit of sweetness.
And this is my finished lunch for today! My husband likes to eat his salads with salt, a lot of fresh ground black pepper and a drizzled with virgin olive oil. I still prefer a favorite dressing on mine.
However you top it, fresh salads are the best!