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Secrets of Sensational Salads: Grow Your Own Gourmet Greens

June 26, 2024

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Secrets of Sensational Salads: Grow Your Own Gourmet Greens

Cultivating Culinary Delights

Hi there, it’s Shari Sweeney here on A Certain Aesthetic, where I’m serving up elevated food, mindful experiences, and the beauty of living in Okinawa, Japan. One of my favorite hobbies each year is setting up my annual herb and vegetable garden. During these interesting times we’re living in, many people have started growing their own gardens. From what I hear, it’s been a wonderful experience in more ways than they could have ever imagined.

However, for garden newbies, there’s a common issue that arises – you’ve grown all this delicious fresh food, and then you realize you don’t know how to harvest it. This is especially true for harvesting salad, and I’m here to help. Today, I’m going to guide you on how to cut fresh salad greens from your own garden.

One thing I realized immediately when this pandemic began is that it is more vital than ever to have your own garden. When this thought came to me, I made sure to spread the word to my family and friends because growing a garden can serve many purposes during this time. It can help provide sustenance in case there’s a break in the food supply chain, you can save money as food costs continue to rise, and tending to a garden can be a mindful experience. I honestly feel there’s something cathartic about taking precious time to care for and maintain an entity outside of ourselves.

I must say, it’s been fun seeing the amazing setups of some of my favorite people who started their own herb and vegetable gardens this year. My Dad is a great example – when we talk on FaceTime, I love seeing the joy and immense pride on his face when he talks about his robust patio garden full of tomatoes, squash, salad greens, and more.

The Art of Harvesting

Harvesting salad greens is a really fun and therapeutic experience. Hearing the clipping of the scissors, listening to the outdoor ambiance of birds chirping, and feeling a light breeze on your face makes it a special moment of mindfulness. The bonus comes when you get to eat this fresh bounty of salad greens from your own hard work.

Today’s focus is going to be on how to cut the leaf lettuce varieties like red and green leaf, spinach, arugula, and more. This type of lettuce has the ability to rapidly regrow its leaves over and over again from the main stem – this is why it’s so lovingly called “cut and come again” lettuce.

All you need to harvest salad greens are a colander or large bowl to collect the salad greens, a flour sack kitchen towel or paper towel to line your vessel, a pair of sharp scissors, and a cheerful disposition. Any type of sharp scissors will do the job, and my all-time favorites are these beautiful Japanese-style garden shears. They are absolutely gorgeous and super sharp for precision cutting.

Harvesting salad greens will be one of the easiest and most rewarding parts of your gardening experience. It’s most optimal to harvest your salad greens in the early morning hours because the leaves will be crisp and full of moisture. When you’re ready to cut salad like red leaf, green leaf, spinach, and kale, you want to cut as close to the main stem as possible without disrupting the main stem or the root ball. I would say it’s best to leave about 1-2 inches of the newly cut lettuce leaf stem just to be safe, and do not cut the smaller leaves at the base of the plant.

Doing this ensures that you will have ample regrowth in its next cycle. If you cut it back too much, the plant may become damaged and not grow back, which means you’ll have to plant another seedling in its place. Arugula is even easier to cut because it spreads as it grows. All you have to do is gather all of the leaves you want in one hand and do one large chop near the base of the plant, leaving about 1-2 inches of stems like above, and you’re all set for a delicious meal and lots of regrowth.

Optimal Harvest Time

It’s best to harvest leaf lettuce varieties when they are small in size, about 3-5 inches in length. This is the size that’s called baby spring mix or mesclun mix in grocery stores. The leaves will be very tender and sweet with a delicate flavor. If you let these types of lettuce grow for too long, they will bolt, and the leaves will taste bitter.

Bolting is when the plant has decided it’s ready to seed, so it will shoot out flowers to prepare for seeding. Bolting also occurs when the temperature is too hot for the salad to continue growing. At this point, it’s best to dig up the mature salad and sow a new plant in its place. You can also allow the salad plant to produce seeds and then collect them to grow new salad seedlings for years to come.

Snip all of the lettuce that you need and place it into the bowl. After harvesting, your container or plot will look a little bit strange and naked. Don’t fret, because in about one or two weeks, it’ll be twice the size if not more than the first time you cut it back. You want to make sure that you’re cutting on a regular basis, such as once a week or once every two weeks. You will be amazed at how fast and ample your next round of salad will be after your initial harvest.

Now take your salad greens inside, give them a good wash, and dry with a salad spinner or paper towels. At this point, you’re ready for a wonderful feast, or you can store your newly harvested salad greens in a plastic storage bag in the refrigerator for later use. That’s it! I hope you enjoyed today’s tutorial, and if you’re an avid gardener, a newbie in the garden game, or a lover of great salads, let me know in the comments below. Take care and stay tuned for a recipe that’s inspired by today’s delicious harvest.

The Rewards of Homegrown Greens

Growing your own salad greens can be a truly rewarding experience. Not only do you get to enjoy the satisfaction of cultivating your own fresh produce, but you also get to savor the unparalleled flavor and nutritional benefits of homegrown greens.

When you grow your own salad ingredients, you have complete control over the growing process, ensuring that your greens are free from harmful pesticides and packed with vital nutrients. Plus, the act of harvesting and preparing your own salads can be a mindful, meditative experience that connects you more deeply to the food you consume.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a complete newcomer, learning to grow and harvest your own gourmet greens can be a game-changer for your health and culinary enjoyment. With a little know-how and the right techniques, you can transform your humble backyard (or even a small indoor space) into a thriving oasis of leafy delights. So why not take the plunge and unlock the secrets of sensational salads? Your taste buds and your body will thank you.

Sprucing up Your Salad Game

Now that you’ve mastered the art of harvesting your own salad greens, it’s time to take your salad game to the next level. While fresh, homegrown greens are the foundation of any sensational salad, there are countless ways to elevate your creations with creative mix-ins and flavorful dressings.

One Reddit user shared their struggle with making satisfying salads, noting, “I find myself craving fresh veggies as a concept, but I don’t know how to combine them in a way that tastes delicious.” This is a common challenge, as many of us grew up on uninspired salads drowning in heavy dressings.

The key is to experiment with a variety of ingredients that complement the natural sweetness and bitterness of your greens. Try adding roasted vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, freshly grated cheese, or a tangy vinaigrette. The options are endless, and the beauty of homegrown salads is that you can tailor them to your exact tastes.

Another excellent resource for salad inspiration is the blog My New Roots, where the author shares a “Life-Changing Loaf of Bread” that sounds like the perfect companion to your homegrown salad creations.

So don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen. With a little experimentation, you can transform your salads from mundane to magnificent, all while nourishing your body with the freshest, most flavorful greens imaginable. Happy harvesting and salad-making!

Cultivating Culinary Confidence

The journey of growing and harvesting your own salad greens is not just about the end result – it’s about the empowering process of becoming more self-sufficient and connected to your food. As one Reddit user eloquently put it, “Tending to a garden can be a mindful experience. I honestly feel there’s something cathartic about taking precious time to care for and maintain an entity outside of ourselves.”

By nurturing your own mini-ecosystem of edible delights, you’re not only providing yourself with nutrient-dense ingredients, but you’re also fostering a deeper appreciation for the natural world and your place within it. It’s a humbling and grounding experience that can have far-reaching benefits for your physical and mental well-being.

So whether you have a sprawling backyard or a cozy windowsill, I encourage you to embrace the secrets of sensational salads and start growing your own gourmet greens. Who knows – it just might change your life in ways you never expected. And if you’re ever in Okinawa, be sure to stop by Thornapple CSA to discover even more ways to elevate your salad game with locally sourced, sustainably grown produce.

Happy harvesting, my friends! Let’s cultivate a greener, healthier future, one delicious salad at a time.

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