Nothing is more rewarding than growing salad greens and then picking a salad right out of your garden.
Sow and eat nutritious greens for a low-calorie and delicious source of vitamins.
• Sow your first set of seeds in the ground in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked, or from three to six weeks before your last spring frost, depending on the type of green.
• Consider growing greens in raised beds, especially if you have heavy or clay soil. Raised beds allow cool and wet spring soils to dry out and warm up more quickly.
• Amend the soil before or at planting time with a layer of rich compost, aged manure or an organic high-nitrogen fertilizer, such as fish meal. This will encourage the rapid growth that’s needed in order to ensure tender, succulent and flavorful greens.
• Give greens the growing conditions they need to thrive, which generally include a sunny location and rich, moist and well-drained soil.
• Never allow plants to become stressed. A stressed plant, whether due to insufficient light, nutrients or water, can result in stunted growth or premature bolting (when the plant goes to seed) before leaves reach a harvestable size.
• Spring greens often have shallow roots with leaves composed of mostly water. Because of this, make sure the soil is consistently moist.
• Young leaves are typically tender and not bitter. Depending on the type of green, you can harvest the individual outer leaves as needed, or cut the entire plant 1 to 2 inches above the soil to encourage a second crop.
• For the freshest and most-nutritious greens, harvest in cool, shady conditions. Try a cool, overcast day or during the cool of the early morning or evening.
• Most greens are ready to harvest in as little as 30 to 40 days; some greens can take up to 50 days.
• The best way to store unwashed greens is to wrap them in a slightly damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag (be sure to push out as much air as possible) in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Discard any damaged or discolored leaves before storing.
• Rinse greens thoroughly in cold water before use. The easiest way to do that is to immerse them in water, then gently swirl several times to remove any dirt or grit. If you see sediment in the water, drain the sink and repeat the process until your greens rinse clean and are free of debris.
• Spin greens dry in a salad spinner if you’ll be using them raw. For leaves destined for cooking, simply shake off excess water, put greens into a colander and let the excess water drain, or allow greens to drip-dry on a clean lint-free dish towel.
Kris Wetherbee is a contributing editor and herb grower who lives and tends her herbs in western Oregon.
Learn the distinct flavors and health benefits of different greens in Healthy and Delicious Spring Greens.