Wonderful Salad Plants
There's more to salad than just lettuce! We've found quite a few other easy salad plants over the years that taste great and come when lettuce isn't available.
Some suggestions? The endive is useful when the lettuce hasn't started yet, and the Land Cress makes an interesting all year round addition to your salads. The claytonia is an excellent main ingredient for winter salads, and the West Indian Gherkin in the Cucurbits section is also a prolific salad-ingredient producer. (Of course, many of these can be used cooked too - in particular the orach, sorrel, and salsola are nice that way.)
People often get in touch wanting to buy seeds as gifts. We think the salads are ideal for this.
We've always been a bit wary of some of the 'unusual
edibles' people would have you try,
Claytonia a.k.a. "Miners Lettuce' or 'Winter Purslane'
If you haven't tried claytonia, we think you'll really enjoy it. It grows very quickly with minimal effort - you only need a few plants to get lots of salad ingredients. It's ideal sown as an autumn or early spring crop in a tunnel, but also grows well outside.
Claytonia is an easily grown green, with rounded crunchy leaves. Originally from North America, it has been naturalised in Europe since 1749 but is still relatively unknown for some reason.
To harvest, either pick individual leaves or whole rosettes, it is very nice and crunchy with a good flavour.
Very easy to grow, works really well in a tunnel or greenhouse.
Order SaCy - 1g (hundreds of seeds!) £
Liscari Sativa (Agretti, Salsola soda)
Our original seed came from Italy, but also popular in Japan where it is used for soups. An easy plant to grow, and a great addition to the vegetable garden. Delicious, it is rarely available commercially because good seed is so hard to find.
Although the plants do get bigger later on, we think it is better to sow quite a lot and harvest young, so we give you quite a lot of seeds in the packet.
Growing it is easy. Germination is always a bit piecemeal because they are not 'proper' seeds, being actually little plants rolled up in a ball, but don't worry as we give you loads of seed in the packet and you will definitely get many plants from it. Too much heat actually reduces germination - so sow early undercover (up to end March at the latest), or outdoors later in the spring.
Nice both cooked & raw.
Order LGSA - 10g approx - £
'Belleville' Leaf Sorrel
One of the earliest green crops to start in spring and perennial -
once you've got a clump going it needs no attention other than when
you want to eat it. Hardy, early salad. Lemony!
Hardy, early salad or cooking leaf green, very easy to grow.
Order SoBE - 1.5g (lots of seed) £
Perennial early salad, easy.
Order SaSB - 50 seed £
Minutina (Erba Stella / Buckshorn Plantain)
It makes a dense clump of long leaves that are forked a bit like the horns on a deer, hence the name. The plants get to a decent size - that's a pencil for scale in the picture.
They are very nice both raw in salads and cooked. Easy – so much so that one gardening advice column said if you can’t grow this, you should give up gardening.
Very easy, great plant .
Order SaMt - (lots of seed) £
Sculpit (Silene vulgaris / S. inflata)
Sculpit - aka Stridolo, and a cultivated larger version of the wildflower Bladder campion - is well known in Italy, but rarely grown in the UK. It's hardy and easy to grow - sow from mid spring either direct or started in modules - and crops throughout the summer well into autumn.
It has an interesting 'herbal' flavour with a slight bitterness, and is often used to flavour egg and rice dishes, though we also really like it in a mixed salad.
Good flavour - ideal in omlettes, risottos as well as salads
Order LgSC - approx 50 seed £
A whole new class of vegetable here – this is a unique salad leaf from a cross between a kale and mustard.
The plants make large but delicately lacey leaves with a golden-green colour, and a sweet, but only slightly spicy flavour.
It goes well in salads as the lacey leaves add a delicate bit of ‘zing’. Can also be cooked as a green.
Great new salad ingredient .
Order OvGF - approx 200 seed £
When? Sow in early spring or after midsummer for best results
'Fine Leaved' Shungiku for Salads
This is very popular in Japan and the far east - and related to the decorative Chrysanthemum we all know from the flowerbed. It really is nice added to a mixed salad, and also shredded in with a stir-fry.
Sown in Spring or Autumn (leaves may go bitter in the heat of mid-summer), autumn sowings can survive for a while under fleece.
You get lots of pretty yellow flowers if you let it run to seed. Very quick & easy (30 days from sowing) and good for cut & come-again.
Chrysanthemum coronarium. Nice tangy salad-addition.
Order SaFL - 300 seed £
'Magentaspreen' Giant Goosefoot
This variety has bright green leaves, which are frosted with a sparkly magenta colour when young. It is very pretty in salads, or you can use it as a cooked green too.
This is quite easy to grow, but it needs cool nights to germinate. Therefore early spring sowings (up to end March) are fine under cover, but make later sowings outdoors so they don't get too hot.
Order SaMG - hundreds of seed £
'Mild' Cultivated Rocket
Normally Ben can't stand rocket, but this strain, which is less strong than common rocket, is really very nice! He's even been spotted pulling off leaves and munching on them absentmindedly while weeding the seedbeds . . .
Very easy to grow, sow Feb - Oct for continuous harvest. (Will need fleece protection in the winter)
Order SaRO - 2g (lots of seed) £
~ ORACH ~
We think that Orach - also known
as German Mountain Spinach -
It grows quickly early in the year, supplying large
quantities of mild heart-shaped leaves
Magenta Magic Orach
Orach grows quickly early in the year, supplying tender heart-shaped leaves, or delicious cooked. This variety has deep purple leaves that look great in the garden and on the table.
You sow the funny disc-like seed from May onwards, for harvest over the summer.The plants grow to 1m tall (looking very pretty) , but are better picked when smaller as they are nice and tender when young.
Order SaMO - about 150 seed £
Cold-resistant, Autumn-sown Land Cress:
This is useful all year round salad plant that forms small rosettes of lobed green leaves. The leaves have a crunchy texture, with a slightly spicy watercress flavour. Definitely a good addition to early and late salads! If given some protection (eg fleece), it will maintain supplies throughout the winter. We like to always have some on the go throughout the year.
Slightly spicy salad for all year use
When? It can be sown at pretty much any time but is best known for its incredible cold-resistance. It is therefore best sown in August for supplies of greens over the winter. You can try in spring too if you like.
Catherine said that this was her best salad crop in the very cold winter a couple of years back - it sat under 2 inches of snow without suffering at all, and was still thriving in Mid March.
Order SaLC - 2g of seed - £