Photo and article by Donna Iverson
Lettuce, crucifers, and oriental greens are the basic plants in a salad garden. Also some edible flowers like nasturtiums, violets, and pansies for garnishing the salad bowl,
When it comes to leafy salad plants, choose from leaf and head lettuces, or other greens such as chicory, radicchio, endive, spinach, arugula and chard. Crucifers include kale and cabbage. Some orientalist salad greens to try include pak choi and muzuna.
Early spring lettuce is the staple of my salad garden, mostly leaf lettuce and arugula. But each year, I like to try something new. So recently, I ordered collard green seeds from my favorite garden catalog. Directions said to plant any time after the last heavy frost until midsummer by pressing seeds into the ground to the depth of a fingernail. Then thin to about six inches apart once they sprout. Collard greens will tolerate both heat and cold, prefer full sun, and need regular watering. Plants emerge in about five to ten days.
A member of the beet family, collards are grown for their leaves while beets are grown for their roots. Collards go by many names including Swiss chard, Chilean beet, perpetual spinach, and Roman kale. Leaf and stem colors include white, red and purple.
In the kitchen, collard greens can be eaten raw in salads or cooked. Mature leaves can be tough so remove outer young leaves early if you plan to add to your salad. You can remove ribs from the leaves by folding the leaf in half and then cutting away the ribs. The ribs can then be cooked like asparagus. When cooking, add to stews and store fries. Collards keep about a week in the refrigerator.
Collard greens are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and will continue producing all summer. Favorite varieties include Bright Lights, Fordhook Giant, and Lucullus. Try the variety Barese Chard for baby greens and harvest when they are about seven inches tall. The variety called Fordhook is an heirloom plant, dating back to the early twentieth century.