Thursday, July 28, 2016

Winter mesclun salad pots

A fresh green salad in winter when dinners start to look mostly brown from slow cooked stews and tangines or to set off the deep red of a tomato based Italian dish, what a great plan.
At the beginning of April I ordered the mesclun winter greens seed mix from King Seeds.
I prepared 3 pots and 2 buckets with soil and some compost, and sprinkled the whole packet between the different pots. I put them out on the edge of the verandah - so they would get some rain - and waited.
I was thinking of the term 'microgreens' and I expected the growth to edible size a lot sooner. By mid-May so approximately 6-7 weeks later, I had pots of low greenery but they looked like weeds.
I was disappointed with the whole mesclun idea. I had successfully grown 3 pots and 2 buckets of little weeds. My one optimistic thought was the uniformity of what was growing in all the pots, perhaps it was the beginnings of a salad after all.
Before I pulled them all out in disgust, I regoogled the seed mix. It has arugula, miner's lettuce and minutina in it.
So I googled each of those separately. It was then that I realised what I thought was grass was actually very young minutina. I plucked some pieces and had a taste. They were definitely flavoured in the green salad genre - fresh, not bitter and not grassy.
This is what the different leaves look like when small:

Arugula (Diplotaxis tenuifolia)
Miner's lettuce

These pots have been excellent. Now I know they are mostly my salad greens, I can pick out the few weeds in the pots. I clip the salad greens with scissors, as much as I need for a particular meal, and then it grows back in between.
Having more than one pot means I can cut an entire pot for a salad and while it is regrowing use the other ones. The pots on the verandah has meant quick access during meal creation to grab some salad making the salad grabbing a more regular occurrence than if picking required putting on boots and heading out into the winter dark to the vegetable garden.
We have used the mesclun greens together with some pepper, balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for a quick side salad, in sandwiches with cheese and homemade chutney, and on top of an omelet made from our chickens' eggs.
Based on the success of winter mesclun greens, summer ones will be added to the seed selection. Mesclun is a funny word. It is French for mixture, this is really one of the old salad ideas possibly back from Roman times. Mine should include flowers and more herbs as well to give it variety in flavour. Next time, I think I will include rocket, perhaps some mustard greens and add some edible flowers too like violets and nasturtiums. I like the idea of putting together the leaves to create the flavours pepper or mustard dressings would add to the salad. I will have to wait until we have finished eating the winter mesclun.

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5 Favourite Sights Seen

  • 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
  • 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
  • 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
  • 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
  • 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.