5 Spring Lettuces to Plant in Your Garden

Greens are a gardeners best friend

Health experts of any discipline will all predictably agree if only on one vital cornerstone of nutrition: Eat More Greens. Grown in virtually every climate, greens pack a powerhouse of complex health benefits into their curlicue, crepe-like or wispy leaves. And, they’re super easy to grow, perfect for a spring garden of any size.

Greens are fundamental to human health from glowing skin to proper digestion to preventing cancer and other serious conditions. They can be categorized into three plant families: lettuces, which include salad greens such as romaine and green leaf, as well as escarole, dandelion and endive; the mustard family, which is much hardier than lettuce and includes kale, collards, cabbage and of course, mustard greens; and finally there’s the beet family, which falls somewhere in between lettuce and mustard with chard, spinach and beets.

To the iceberg eater, lettuces may seem bland or flavorless, a mere carrier of salad dressing and crouton; but to the foodie, they are bursting with flavor and texture, centerpieces all their own.

Whether it’s your first or fiftieth garden, we think these are splendid greens to plant this season:

Arugula: Nothing beats the spicy bite of this tasty and versatile loose leaf green native to the Mediterranean. Use it in salads or cook with it, or eat it right out of the garden.

Lacinato Kale: Kale is just so darn tasty, healthy and versatile that we think everyone in the world should eat it. Kale is best cooked, sautéed with a little oil, salt and pepper, but you can also add to salads by massaging it with salt first so it softens up. Kale is loaded with vitamins, minerals and healthy benefits. When in doubt just remember: “Hail Kale!”

Mache: This lettuce is also known as Lamb’s Quarters and is much more popular in Europe than the U.S. It’s a great source of B and C vitamins and has a mild, minty flavor. It grows abundantly in the wild and will do well in most any garden.

Red Leaf Lettuce: Probably the most nutritious lettuce because of its dark purplish-green color, it is a wonderful source of beta carotene, and its delicate flavor pairs perfectly with spicier greens and tangy dressings.

Watercress: Once called scurvy grass, this fresh and peppery delight was used to treat everything from coughs and colds to parasites and kidney stones. It was even used as a deodorant! It is loaded with beta-carotene, vitamins A, B1 and B6, C, E, iodine, iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

image: balise42

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. Twitter @jillettinger | www.jillettinger.com.