Nothing compares to that first bowl of tender, fresh salad straight from your own garden. And, spring greens are just the thing to inspire you to get your planting started. But don't just grow green lettuce! Greens come in all sorts of shapes and flavors. Choose a few unique varieties to turn that first salad into a gourmet homegrown experience. Here are some of our favorites.
An essential in my own garden. Mustard greens are cold-hardy and bolt-resistant, so you can start them early and keep them going longer than more heat-sensitive greens like spinach. And while the mustard greens you see at the market are usually full-grown, the tender young leaves are fantastic in salads. I like to grow red mustard greens, which add both spice and flavor to any dish.
A classic home gardener's crop, arugula is another spicy green that grows quickly and needs essentially the same conditions as lettuce. Add arugula to your lettuce bed, and its bright, shapely greens will be ready to eat in 40 days. Even better, you can hack this green down to the stalk and it'll keep on pushing out delicious new leaves.
Claytonia perfoliata (pictured at top) is a wild green native to the West, and is commonly known as "Miner's Lettuce." It needs little care and has a unique circular shape that adds a meadow-like visual appeal to your greens. Keep claytonia in the shade once it gets hot, and harvest it before it flowers for best flavor.
Chard and Beet Greens
Though these greens are undeniably fantastic later in the season when they're full grown, don't miss out on their baby leaves, which are tender and nutty with that unique colorful veining that looks beautiful in a salad. Sow some beet greens and chard with your lettuce, just to be harvested in spring, and grow your summer beets and chard separately. Or harvest sparingly to keep your plants producing into the summer.
If you prefer your salads a little more free-form, pick up a mesclun mix. "Mesclun" is an old word for "weeds," and most mixes are a hodgepodge of lettuce, beet greens, kales, even some edible flowers. It's a great way to try new flavors, and can make for a gorgeous bed of greens too.
Want more? Try these 5 unique spring greens.
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image: Jessica Reeder