Winter salads are fairly safe, I mean, tame, at this little place here. They come from the store: lettuce, spinach, carrots, celery, onions, sometimes green peppers if I find them on sale. . .
But when the growing season gets here, you never know what I'll throw in there! Today's salad started in the usual way: spinach and green leaf lettuce from the grocery store. Then I got a wild hare and took my kitchen shears outside to see what I could see.
What did I see?
Chives seem to be easy to grow; I got mine a few years ago as a fifty-cent size clump from a generous acquaintance. I stuck them in the ground, and they grew. They've come back every year. All I have to do is cut the green shoots and eat them! If I don't cut and eat them fast enough, once hot weather gets here they send up pretty little purple flowers, which are also edible or make a nice small bouquet in a bud vase.
They are alliums, meaning they are part of the onion family, and they taste slightly onion-y. Being part of the allium family means they are also good at boosting your immune system. At this little place here, we eat lots of alliums, especially if one of us is coming down with a cold. Usually this nips things in the bud and no one else gets ill, plus the ill person heals faster.
Yes, dandelion. Edible, especially in the spring before they flower. They have a slightly peppery taste, and as the leaves get larger they get more bitter. So nice, young, tender ones are best for hiding, I mean, putting in, your salad. They are super nutritious, especially high in Vitamins A, C and K, as well as being a good source of Calcium and Iron. And if you cut them up small enough and toss them into the salad well, your husband and kids might not notice what you snuck into their salad. ;0)
I have a small patch of garlic that got away from me years ago, when I first tried growing garlic by putting a sprouting head of garlic from the store into the ground in the spring. Which is the wrong time to plant garlic in Michigan. It did grow, but didn't form anything but tiny heads that were too small to do much with. Evidently when I dug them up to harvest, I didn't get them all, because they grew back the next year, not getting any bigger. Then the mint I'd planted nearby got crazy and took over the entire bed, making it next to impossible to find and dig up the garlic at harvest time.
Last fall, however, I tore out a bunch of the mint that was beyond it's rightful space, and now I'm seeing green clumps of garlic shoots coming up. Knowing that garlic scapes (the curling stem of the seed head) are edible and yummy, I figured that the shoots (where the seed head stems eventually will come from as the weather warms) would be too. Just in case my theory was wrong, I ate a piece right there outside with my kitchen shears in my hand. Yum, garlicky! So I cut off a fistful to add to the salad.
Garlic shoots/scapes are, like dandelion greens, high in Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron, although apparently they have no notable amount of Vitamin A.
A member of the mint family, lemon balm is easy to grow. It has a mildly lemon flavor, which is a nice addition to a green salad. Or just to chew a few leaves raw when you're working outside and have a craving for a snack. Nice flavor, no calories! At least, I can't find any nutritional data anywhere for lemon balm, so I'm going to claim it has no calories.
It was the lemon balm that DH found in the salad tonight. Guess I left a few of those leaves a little too big to go unnoticed. . .
So that was the greenery in tonight's salad. Other times, especially in late June, I have had salads composed of things like 5 different lettuces, chard, beet greens, peppermint and/or spearmint leaves, dill fronds, arugula, radish leaves, young kale leaves, as well as the ingredients I used today. It's fun to go out and see what edibles there are around and throw them together for an interesting, tasty and nutritious mixture of greens.
This spring and summer, I challenge you to get out of the plain lettuce salad rut and throw in some less conventional goodies. You'll be amazed at the delicious combinations you can come up with.