Making a Case for Garden Salads


It’s salad season!! Generally speaking, I don’t figure that gets too many people excited, which is too bad. And I don’t blame them really. Salads can be pretty dull, limp, and well, gross. We seem to be talented at buying greens of sketchy freshness [esp iceberg and romaine] from California in the winter [out of season here, btw], and adding a bottled salad dressing. I’m not sure where that tradition came from – I’m pretty sure the pioneers up here didn’t eat that way because, well, the option did not exist. In the last decade or so, ‘the thing’ became buying them pre-washed-and-prepped in bags. I guess prepping lettuce is too much work, and the additional dodginess of the often-starting-to-get-slimy-greens was not enough deterrent for the savings offered in labour. Fortunately, as with many things in the food world, the tide seems to be changing and you can get some pretty cool mixed lettuces in plastic boxes, and some wicked greens at the market. But there’s still a better way.

Acquire dirt. Acquire seeds. Salads can and should be dynamic, healthful, tasty, and capitalize on the freshest of produce from the garden. In this case, 5 minutes or so from plant to plate. If you truly value fresh, that’s a tough act to beat. Cost is pennies for the seed. From where I sit, the quality-price-ratio seems pretty rockin’. To make things even better, more and more of the greens I use in salads are hardy perennials – so they produce from year to year with little to no work. They also tend to be up earlier than seeded greens. So I get to be lazy AND get super-fresh green salads – even early in the growing season sans-energy-sucking-greenhouse. Nice.

In this particular salad: spinach, pea shoots [underrated], bloody dock [perennial], touch of lovage [perennial], some baby italian parsley [biannual], sorrel [perennial], hard boiled egg, croutons [from home-made bread w/ wild thyme], and a dressing of organic canola oil, honey, white wine vinegar, dijon, salt, and pepper. Might sound fancy, but it isn’t – it’s a ‘walk-around-the-yard’ special. Might sound like a lot of work, but it isn’t – 5-10 minutes? Best bit? As the seasons change, so do the salads. Super-fresh, hyper-local, highly reflective of seasonality, inexpensive, super-healthful, and tasty. Salads rock.

2 Responses

  1. Mel says:

    Those plastic bags of chopped greens are absolutely disgusting. The smell of plastic-y iceberg lettuce is enough to make me want to puke, nevermind the thought of actually touching them. One of the sensations near the top of my “grossest things ever” list is reaching into a bag of greens that have started to go slimy. *shudder* I get involuntary chills every time I think about it.

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