Planting for winter salads
- There are a group of leafy greens which you can plant in winter that withstand frost and make a healthy, tasty salad. Many of them have long histories and are plants that were originally foraged and may still be today. They contain high levels of minerals and vitamins when planted in soil that’s nutrient-dense.
- There’s Miner’s Lettuce which is the winter form of purslane and got its name because the Gold Rush miners ate it to stave off scurvy. It grows wild in North America and will even grow in the snow and ice.
- Corn Salad (which gets its name because it often grows as a weed in corn fields) is also known as Lamb’s Lettuce or Mache. Its taste is nutty, like a concentrated butterhead lettuce.
- Arugula or wild rocket has been grown in the Mediterranean since Roman times. It belongs to the brassica family. You can eat the flowers as well as the leaves.
- Plantago is the edible form of the weed plantain. It has crunchy leaves which are best harvested when young. They taste a little like parsley, spinach or kale, but sweeter and nuttier. Psyllium husks are made from the seed heads of plantago and are used for weight control and general intestinal health.
- Asian greens like Mizuna and Mustard Lettuce are also part of the brassica family and add spice to salads. They can also be added to stir fries. They lose some of the heat when cooked but retain their flavour. There are red and green varieties.
- Then there are bitter crops like Endives and Radicchio. The bitter taste gets the salivary glands going. It helps the stomach start secreting juices and sends a signal to the brain to get the whole digestive tract — the liver, the pancreas, and the intestines — on the lookout for incoming food.
- Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia and is an annual plant.
- If soil is depleted add compost.
- Plant bigger plants like Mizuna and Mustard Lettuce about 30 cms apart at the back of the bed. Endive and Radicchio are medium-sized, so should go in the middle. At the front, plant Arugula, Corn Salad, Miner’s Lettuce, Plantago and Spinach about 15 cms apart.
- Scatter sheep pellets for a nitrogen boost which all leafy greens need and rock dust for extra minerals around the plants.
- Rob also plants calendula at the end of the bed as a good companion plant for the leafy greens. The petals of the flowers are edible and a nice addition to the winter salad.
- Water it all in well.
Removing nets on brassicas
- Our first brassica crop has been growing for 6 weeks now. The sheep pellets laced with neem oil, which we added to the holes at the time of planting, will be all used up.
- The plants are now lovely and strong and bursting through the nets, so Rob will take the nets off and let them grow unprotected.
- There are less white butterflies and caterpillars around with the cold of winter setting in, but if you do have a caterpillar problem, spray them with organic caterpillar control.
Camera: Jarod Murray
Editor: Thomas Asche
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