And Other Salad Friends
Growing greens is a great way to get nutrients, and fibre into your diet. Whether you live in an apartment with a balcony, or a house with a patio, or backyard garden, any size will be enough to bring these salad essentials to your plate this summer.
Usually a great green to start out with in the spring, spinach doesn’t like the heat. If you live in a hot region, plant spinach as soon as the frost clears. Or if you have the space available plant a month before first frost the previous fall so it makes an early appearance in spring. There are some spinach varieties that are more heat tolerant if you live in a very hot area. Or if you want to try growing greens throughout the summer.
Spinach is high in nutrients, and a great addition to plant based diets. It is also versatile. Use in salads, as pizza toppings, or steamed in stir fries.
A classic salad favourite, there are dozens if not more varieties of leaf lettuce. The main advantage to growing your own, aside from a sense of accomplishment is being able to grow many varieties that you can’t find in local grocery stores. Try ordering seeds from a catalogue for some more obscure varieties to spice up your plate, both literally, and figuratively.
Swiss chard is another versatile green to join your plate. This big leaf can be used in many ways, but it can also add some fun colours to your salads. The rainbow varieties have colourful veins running through their leaves that are sure to cheer up even the most unimpressed salad goer. Also a great green to get kids excited about their vegetables.
Cherry tomatoes are a garden staple, and they’re the perfect bite size for salads too. Easy to grow, cherry tomato plants come in many plant sizes and varieties perfect for any growing space. If you are on a balcony, try a planter variety meant to stay small and produce a lot of tomatoes. If you have the space you can experiment with different varieties to suit your taste, both in flavour and size.
Rashes are another great vegetable to grow with kids. Not only are they fun to make shapes (radish roses anyone?)with for your plates, but they grow very quickly. From seed to your salad in 25 days, these round beauties come in a few varieties. The longer you leave them in the ground after they are ready to sharper and spicier they can get. But beware if you leave them in too long, they may not be very appetizing. Best to pick as soon as they reach about 1″ to 1-1/2″ diameter.
Celery is one that may be more difficult on a balcony, but should do great in a backyard, or side garden. Add a touch of specialty to your dinner parties with celery from your own personal chef’s garden. While it may take a while to mature to grocery store sizes, you can pull off stalks as you need them and let the plants continue to grow.
Another salad essential, spring onions are those long green onions that go in everything from potato salad to bean salad. Very easy to grow, but start them as early as you can after frost, or give them a head start inside first. They can take a while to mature, so starting them inside in the spring can give them more time to develop. You can also harvest just green the tops off these onions and let them regrow all summer long. They are great for container, balcony, or backyard growing.
A summer favourite, cucumbers may do best in a backyard garden, though they can still be grown on a balcony with careful planning. Consider using a trellis, or support system for the vines to climb if you have limited space. If growing in a backyard, let them roam on the ground. Always plant in groups of 5 for your best shot at germination. Cucumbers also do better with friends, so they can be properly pollinated for fruit.
There are many varieties to choose from. The English cucumber is most common for salads, but a good pickling cucumber can do double duty as a salad accoutrement, or a vinegary preserved treat. Try a cucumber salad using spring onion, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and paprika for a refreshing take on a summer classic.
Growing greens is always a great accomplishment. Even more so when you can share the fruit of your labour with family or friends. Its a great way to access fresh, clean plant based meals.
Let me know if I missed any fruits or vegetables that you grow for your salads!