Our Salad Gardens Program last Tuesday, March 19th included everything from easy-to follow directions for growing a tasty variety of salad lettuces, herbs, and edible flowers to a buffet brimming with a variety of salads that stirred the senses.
Some useful tips to help us get started were:
*Locate garden near a source of water
*Use compost for drainage and nutrients
*Use mulch to help retain moisture
*Use deep, infrequent watering
For a healthy foundation…start with good soil:
*Remove weeds, rock, debris
*If needed, order a soil test from Texas A&M
*Need 8-12 inches of loose tillable soil
*Ideal pH is 6.5 – 7.0 (DFW = 7.2)
*Do not work soil when it is wet
*Consider raised bed with special soil mix to start
*Build a compost pile
Growing salad greens:
*Greens include lettuce, herbs, salad greens and leafy green vegetables such as cabbage, collards, kale, mustard, spinach and Swiss chard
*Most greens are cool-season crops and must be grown in the early spring or fall in Texas. Some greens, especially kale, will withstand temperature below freezing and can be grown all winter. And, even in our hot Texas summer climate there are partially shaded spots to grow certain greens.
*Greens grow best in a well-drained soil with lots of organic matter. They prefer full sunlight but will tolerate partial shade.
*The soil should be worked at least 8 to 10 inches deep in the early spring when it is dry enough not to stick to garden tools. Break up large clods and remove trash and weeds. Work the soil into beds about 4 inches high. Add compost or organic matter before digging the soil.
*Greens grow best when given plenty of fertilizer. Adequate nitrogen is needed to develop the dark green leaf color. Before planting the seeds, apply a general garden fertilizer such as 10-10-10 at the rate of 2 to 3 pounds per 100 square feet. Mix fertilizer into the soil about 3 inches.
When shopping for seeds or transplants, consider the limitless possibilities for filling your garden with a variety of leafy greens. Rich in vitamins and folic acid, salad gardens provide both nutrition and fiber. Our mother’s admonition to “eat your greens” really was good advice.
Here are a few of the crowd-pleasing salads our lunch guests enjoyed:
Mixed Green Salad with Nasturtiums and Raspberry Vinaigrette Raspberry Vinaigrette
To lend intrigue to a salad of mixed greens, toss in a handful of peppery nasturtium blossoms.
¼ cup raspberries
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons raspberry or red-wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
6 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Using a wooden spoon, push raspberries through a handheld wire strainer to puree.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons raspberry puree, lemon juice, vinegar, and sugar.
In a slow but steady stream, whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
Vinaigrette can be made 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Yield: Makes about ¾ cup
Adapted from Martha Stewart
6 large handfuls of mixed greens, including wild rocket arugula, herb salad mix, etc.
6 nasturtium blossoms
Toss mixed greens with the vinaigrette. Strew the blossoms over and serve immediately. (Options: may also toss with fresh blueberries or raspberries)
Fresh Spinach and Tatsoi Salad with Orange Curry Dressing
A “dressy” and inviting way to serve spinach. The addition of tatsoi gives it textural interest.
For the dressing
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons (heaping) orange marmalade
2 teaspoon curry powder
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 ¾ cups vegetable oil
For the salad
4 bunches fresh spinach, trimmed
2 cups tatsoi leaves, optional
6 apples (red and green), chopped
2 cups golden raisins
1 ¾ cups walnut halves, lightly toasted
6 green onions, chopped
¼ cup sesame seed, toasted
1 pound bacon, chopped, crisp-fried, crumbled (optional)
Combine the vinegar, marmalade, curry powder, sugar, mustard, salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce in a blender container.
Add the oil in a fine stream, processing constantly at high speed until thickened.
Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours. Chill, covered in the refrigerator until serving time.
Arrange equal amounts of the spinach and tatsoi on 12 salad plates or one large platter. Drizzle with the dressing.
Sprinkle each serving or the platter with the apples, raisins, walnuts, green onions, sesame seeds and bacon bits.
Yield: 12 servings
Orange Fennel Watercress Salad with Lemon Ginger Poppyseed Dressing
2 large navel oranges
3-4 ounces baby watercress
½ medium fennel bulb cored and thinly sliced crosswise
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup salted roasted pistachios
½ cup cutting celery, lightly chopped, for garnish (optional)
Lemon Ginger Poppyseed Dressing
Using a sharp knife, cut about ¼ to ½ inch from the top and bottom of the orange to expose the flesh. Place the fruit on one of its flat ends and cut down to remove the skin and the white pith. Rotate and repeat, working your way around the fruit until the orange fruit is completely exposed. Slice, dice or cut between the flesh and the white membrane to create orange segments.
Place most of the watercress (reserve a small amount) on a large serving plate or platter. Top with sliced fennel, oranges, dried cranberries and pistachios. Drizzle with the Lemon Ginger Dressing. Sprinkle reserved watercress and cutting celery over the salad.
Yield: Serves 4
Pictures by Starla Willis
Now we understand why Peter Rabbit ignored his mother’s warning and stole under that garden fence for a quick sampling of both lettuce and danger. We hope you enjoy your salad garden adventures as much as he did.