How To Grow 10 Healthy Salad Greens!
First glance at that title I can hear the groans from far and wide “…not another article on how healthy greens are ” However it needs to be said over and over again, needs to be shouted from the roof tops until all realize that adding some or all of the ’World of Greens’ into our daily diet regularly is one of the most vital things we can do for our health... Greens are a necessary food source for human health. They provide the essential alkaline minerals, such as calcium and magnesium and are also rich in potassium, iron and zinc.
These important to our health greens are easy to grow and can taste great too, either eaten raw, in salads or cooked, baked, braised, stuffed etc. Prepared by any recipe possible these greens will benefit the body.
The name alone of these dark green leaves is enough to want to make me want to eat them as far as I’m concerned (try saying it a couple of times, it rolls off the tongue just so well). The taste of Arugula has a bit of a sharp and peppery bite to it. You can have it raw as a salad on its own with a mild spritzer type dressing or add some to a tossed salad for an extra spicy flavour. It is also super in soup or my favorite, chicken stir-fry.
All About Arugula:
Arugula is also known as Rocket salad or Roquette. It belongs to the cabbage and the mustard family. As I said already Arugula has a pleasant zesty and slightly bitter flavor that will add a delicious punch to any salad.
It is a hardy cool weather crop which unfortunately can bolt and become really bitter once the weather warms up. Most good garden center will have the seeds in stock. I like to sow the seed directly into the garden once the soil is workable. When planting cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. Remember to gently mist the soil regularly while the seed is germinating. The rows should be at least 5” apart and the seedlings also need to be thinned out to about 5” apart once the seeds have sprouted. Arugula has a shallow rooting system so the best way for thinning is to carefully snip the extra sproutlets with sharp scissors. (The cut sections can be left to rot and reenter the extra nutrition to the soil.) Arugula can also be started indoors but the plantlets then need to be acclimatized and can only go outside once all the danger of frost has passed.
Along with the rest of the lettuce in your garden you can replant every week in August, which will then produce tender leaflets during September and October all the way till the first fall frost.The Arugula growing season can also be extended in a cold frame for quite a few weeks longer. A few years ago I added the last Arugula plants to our Christmas dinner salad.
You should plant Arugula in a partially shaded and wind protected area to keep it cooler longer. that should extend its production into the hot summer months. It requires no more then 10 hours of full sunlight. Once the leaves are about 5” long snipp off the bottom outside leaves. Snip only every other leaf which leaves room for the others to grow.
Tip: I grow Arugula with all my other greens such as spinach, lettuce, dandy-lion greens, and mustard so I can harvest a super-duper bowl of fresh salad all in one spot.
These vivid dark green leaves have a… surprise, surprise, sharp mustardy flavor that can be eaten raw in a salad or slightly sauteed in olive oil. It looses a bit of it's piquant flavor when cooked but still delish. Awesome when finely shredded as a slaw and it's peppery flavor goes really well with pulled beef or pork. (Great grower in the garden without chemical fertilizers.)
Mustard is a cool-season leaf crop that grows especially well in cool climates, actually preferres it and has the best flavor if harvested before the daytime temps reach 75-78F on a regular basis. The plant can reach 3 to 3.5 feet tall. The leaves, stalk and seeds are used.
Companion plants are peas. Mustard is a sociable plant that minds his own business and gets along with one and all.
All will love the taste so plant 6-8 plants per family members. Mustard can be started indoors 6 weeks before the last frost and transplanted into the garden early as long as the plant-lets are about 3-4 inches tall. Sow succession of crops every 10 days 1/2" deep directly into the garden to have a continuous harvest once the soil reaches 40-42F which is the ideal temp for it to germinate. Plant again in mid summer directly into the garden in an area that has a bit of shade to keep it cooler. Mustard loves soil with a pH level of 5.4 to 6.5. Add some well aged compost and it will thrive in chemical free settings. Place plants at least 6 inches apart.
Technically this green is not green at all but a bright reddish purple. It is crunchy with a distinct slightly bitter taste. It grows in small tight baseball sized heads. Radicchio is one of the major ingredient in mescalin (baby green leaf) salads. Radicchio, chicory and Belgian endive are all the same plant just different varieties.
Radicchio is a hardy cool season perennial grown best early to take advantage of the cool. It needs about 80-85 days to mature depending on the variety planted. Cool growing temperatures that stay between 40 and 70F produce the best sweet tasting radicchio. Start seeds indoors and transplant into the garden as early as 3-4 weeks before the average date of the last frost in spring however it is also possible to sow seeds directly into the garden early. The radicchio roots do not like to be disturbed to much so if indoor planting is wanted use much cuplets where the whole thing can be planted outdoors. To keep the soil cool the longest deep mulch around the plantlets either using straw or even opaque plastic mulching sheets.
Companion plants of radicchio are all greens but it really doesn't like the legumes family. It doesn't have any serious disease or pest problems.
Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep and about 2 inches apart. Once the plantlets are about 4-5" tall start thinning them out to 6 inches apart. Remember to add the tender thinnings to your salad. (yum) Most children are not that fond of radicchio plant 6-8 plants per adult household members.
My favorite kind that grows just perfect in my neck of the woods (south western Ontario) is the 'Prima Rosa' 82 days and the 'Early Carmen' 75 days.
Another versatile green that has been popular for a long time and is said to have all the iron a body needs. (Popeye sure is proof of that, no doubt). Use raw in salads, sauteed, steamed, stir-fried, tossed in soup, stew, sauces and in a cottage cheese vegetarian lasagna (to die for). (A super easy addition in an organic garden.)
Spinach is a cool weather lover and grows well in cool climates, actually preferres it and the frost actually brings out the sweet taste of the spinach. It can tolerate temperatures to 20F but at the same time is more tolerant to heat then cabbage. At times the plants can grow with a crooked stem or top heavy which then may need stacking.
Companion plants are tomatoes and peppers and strawberries, but spinach has a feud on with corn and all legumes especially pole beans. Plant 20-22 plants per family members. Plant succession crops every 10 days. Start indoors 6 weeks before the last frost and transplant into the garden early even when some light frost can still be expected for a couple of weeks and as long as the plant-lets are about 3-4 inches tall. Plant again in mid summer directly into the garden in an area that can be easily sectioned off for a cold frame in late October or November. Spinach loves soil with a pH level of 6 to 6.8 with some well aged compost added in. It will thrive in chemical free settings.
The spinach leaves can be harvested regularly by cutting the 4 top most young tender leaves once the plants have 6 to 8 leaves. If all leaves are cut, trim the stem down to around 3" above the soil and it will have a chance to regrow some new leaves.
Butterhead or Bibb, Loose Leaf and Romaine Lettuce
Bibb and butterhead lettuce is found under either name. It is a salad green that has a nice delicate buttery mild flavor . Usually available at most grocery stores. Bibb lettuce comes in small roundish heads. Use it as a salad with a light dressing or on a sandwich sub. (Fairly easy to grow in an organic veggie garden)
Loose leaf lettuce either with green or reddish leaves it is excellent for salads. Sweet delicate and crisp usually the first thing out of my veggie garden in the spring. When harvesting carefully cut outside leaves only to preserve the core, which will keep producing new shoots or leaves continually. (This cool weather lover is very easy to grow without the uses of any chemicals)
Romaine lettuce is also a world famous salad. The large crunchy dark green leaves have a sweet strong flavor that is mostly famous for being the main ingredient of the Cesar salad. It is a great salad that can accompany just about every type of food possible. (Also when harvesting carefully cut only outer leaves of plant for regular use and it will keep growing and growing
All of these lettuce types are easy to grow and they are cool-season crops. They can be started indoors 7-8 weeks before the average last frost date of the spring. Once they're 3" tall transplant them into the garden then keep sowing seeds every 10 days for a continuous harvest until the heat of the summer. Then start again mid to end August for fall crops. If lettuce is protected with frost cloches or row covers at night it will happily keep producing salads after salads. I've successfully grown leaf lettuce in a cold frame until Christmas time even here in south western Ontario.
A family favorite so plant lots usually 8 to 10 heads or 6-7 feet of gardening plot per person is about right.
Grow lettuce in full sun or partial shade and start harvesting the tender young leaves after about 38-40 days. Cut it early mornings when it's still cool so that it won't wilt. Lettuce prefers soil with a pH level of 5.8 to 6.8. Thin leaf lettuce to be 4-6 inches apart and bib lettuce at least 10. If lettuce is crowded it will bolt and go to seed really fast.
Companion planting lettuce loves to grow and chat with onion, garlic, leek, carrots, radishes strawberries and cucumbers. It doesn't complain too much about other veggies either as it's a friendly little chap.
Lettuce doesn't have much of a disease problem but remember aphids, snails and slugs love it too. Spray aphids off with water and trap slugs by placing saucers filled with stale beer around the lettuce patch.
Possibly the most used green world wide. The most common parsley available in our grocery stores is the curly frilly leaved kind. Italian parsley has flat wider leaves. In some countries cilantro or coriander leaves are sold as parsley. It is used in salads, sauces, dressings. The clean flavor goes just as well with fish or meat. My favorite parsley salad is the middle eastern Tabbouleh (yum). (Very easy to grow in the garden.)
Parsley is one of the most popular herbs that are grown in English and Mediterranean herb gardens. Parsley can be used for flavouring or as a garnish. It is also a good source of nutrition and can be used for neutralising strong smelling breath (Garlic springs to mind). Although Parsley is a biennial herb it is normally grown as an annual.
Growing parsley requires
more patience than other herbs as it has a long germination period - around 3
to 4 weeks. Germination of parsley requires warm temperatures so a warm room is
advised rather than outside. Parsley can be moved outside if required and can
be transplanted into containers or well dug soil. If growing outside then sow
your plants indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before you plan to move them outside. Parsley
will grow well in a soil that is pH 6.0- 7.0
A normal potting compost will be sufficient if growing it indoors. Ensure the soil does not dry out - water more frequently in summer. You can add a mulch to the soil to reduce soil moisture loss and reduce competing weeds.
Outside plants can be dug up and brought inside to extend their growing season or left in a cold frame.
You can harvest Parsley fresh - both the stalks and leaves can be eaten and you can store it easely by drying or freezing it. Cut the outermost stalks just above ground level. This will encourage further growth.
Both flat leaved parsley and curly leaved parsley varieties are available.
This the curly and leafy dark green member of the cabbage family that is most often forgotten and ignored, unfortunately. Even though it is as versatile as it’s cabbage cousins. Kale can be sauteed, steamed, added to soups or stews and can also be eaten raw like a Cole slaw. It has a strong robust cabbage flavor that begs to be served with bacon or pork chops. (A cool weather crop, Kale will keep growing even in Canada in a cold frame till way into the late fall or early winter and doesn’t need chemical fertilizers.)
Kale is a non-heading biennial that is grown as an annual. It can grow 3 feet tall if planted in full sun. It grows well in cool climates, actually preferres it and the frost actually brings out the sweet taste of kale. It can tolerate temperatures to 20F but at the same time is more tolerant to heat then cabbage.
Companion plants beets, celery, potatoes, herbs, onion, garlic, leeks and shallots but kale does not like pole beans, strawberries and tomatoes. Plant 2-3 plants per family members. Kale can be started indoors 6 weeks before the last frost and transplanted into the garden early even when some light frost can still be expected for a couple of weeks and as long as the plant-lets are about 3-4 inches tall. Plant again in mid summer directly into the garden in an area that can be easily sectioned off for a cold frame in late October or November. Kale love soil with a pH level of 5.4 to 7.0 with some well aged compost added in. It will thrive in chemical free settings. Place plants at least 12 inches apart. Thin out to give the plant lots of room to expand but remember to transplant the ones taken out in a different spot in the garden.
Kale should be harvested regularly by cutting the young tender leaves from the bottom up once the plants is 10 to 12 inches tall. This will let the plant continue to grow.
Swiss chard has a somewhat similar taste to beets and spinach and can also be prepared
like spinach. The leaf color
of Swiss chard is usually green but its stems come in many different
colors, that's why it's also known as the rainbow vegetable. Swiss chard can be your best
friend when cutting down on calories as one cup of fresh Swiss chard has only 35 calories. Sauteed it really pairs well with lamb or mutton. Can become an easy to make side dish sprinkled with bacon-bits (real or simulated), or the leaves can be used as tasty wraps for just about anything. (Another
easy to grow plant that will last way into the cold season in a cold
frame) Swiss chard is part of the beet family and is very high in vitamin A
and K. Vitamin A is very beneficial for the eyes and Vitamin K is
important for blood clotting, cell growth and may help with bone
development. The benefits of the Swiss chard is actually quite a
long list; it is high in vitamin A, C, and K, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and is a good
source of iron, vitamin E, dietary fiber and copper, it's a great source of antioxidants it promotes lung and digestive health, helps prevent inflammation.. .
It can grow 15-16 inches tall if planted in full sun. It grows well in cool climates, actually preferres it and the frost actually brings out the sweet taste.
Companion plants are garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, mustard greens, and chicory but chards have a feud on with the tomato, potato, yams and legumes.
This will let the plant
continue to grow. Plant 2-3 chard plants per family members. Chards can be
started indoors 4 weeks before the last frost and transplanted into the
garden once the plant-lets are about 3-4 inches
tall. Once established in the garden it can tolerate the cold and heat. Plant again in mid summer directly into the garden in an area
that can be easily sectioned off for a cold frame in late October or
November. Collards love soil with a pH level of 6.0 to 6.7 with some well
aged compost added in. It will thrive in chemical free settings. Place
plants at least 8 inches apart. Add a compost tea twice during the growing season.
Chards can be
harvested several times per season once the leaves are 3-4" by removing outside leaves from the bottom up. If all the leaves are harvested cut the stem back to 3-4" above the soil and it will regrow some more leaves. A few years back here in Canada I was able to over winter two plants in a cold frame and covered with straw for a second year growing season. I had some tender fresh leaves in the second week of April.
My favorite type is red chard called 'Ruby Red' and is one of the faster growing kind as it matures in about 55 to 58 days.
Collards are a cool-weather crop. They are a super hardy green that belongs to the cabbage family. The taste of the collards green is a cross between cabbage and kale however it doesn't smell as strong. This large leafed plant is fantastic with pork and beef dishes served as a finely shredded slaw or used in a stir fry. As a matter of fact every dish that uses cabbage, kale and Swiss chard can be replaced by collards.
Collards is a non-heading biennial that is grown as an annual with waxy leaves on sturdy stems. It can grow 3 feet tall if planted in full sun. It grows well in cool climates, actually preferres it and the frost actually brings out the sweet taste of collards. It can tolerate temperatures to 20F but at the same time is more tolerant to heat then cabbage. At times the plants can grow with a crooked stem or top heavy which then may need stacking.
Companion plants are tomatoes and peppers but collards have a feud on with the potato and yams. Plant 2-3 plants per family members. Collards can be started indoors 6 weeks before the last frost and transplanted into the garden early even when some light frost can still be expected for a couple of weeks and as long as the plant-lets are about 3-4 inches tall. Plant again in mid summer directly into the garden in an area that can be easily sectioned off for a cold frame in late October or November. Collards love soil with a pH level of 6 to 7.5 with some well aged compost added in. It will thrive in chemical free settings. Place plants at least 12 inches apart. Thin out to give the plant lots of room to expand but remember to transplant the ones taken out in a different spot in the garden.
Collards should be harvested regularly by cutting the young tender leaves from the bottom up once the plants is 10 to 12 inches tall. This will let the plant continue to grow.
Photos coutresy of sxc.hu, flickr, lebensmittelfotos.com
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