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Archive for the ‘Mustard leaves’ Category

Flashy Butter Oak LettuceLettuces started off in the greenhouse and planted out in my front garden about 5 weeks ago are just about ready to have leaves harvested. This is the gorgeous ‘Flashy Butter Oak’ (above) from The Real Seed Catalogue, looking a little tatty at the edges from slugs and snails, but as it’s survived so far (not all of them did), I’m hoping it will now flourish.Reins des Glaces LettuceAnother little beauty from The Real Seed Catalogue is ‘Reine des Glaces’, a cultivar that’s about 200 years old.  Lovely crunchy sweet leaves work really well with softer lettuces and its curly spikeyness is so darn decorative in the garden. I love it!

Forellenschluss Lettuce (soeckled like a trout)

Forellenschluss (meaning speckled like a trout apparently) has similar colourings to the above ‘Flashy Butter Oak’, but it’s an Austrian heirloom Cos lettuce, so will hopefully develop some nice crunchy upright leaves. (I do like a good crunch in my salads these days.) It also looks a lot like Freckles, another delightful Cos, but maybe a bit looser in shape. Seeds available from the ever entertaining Chiltern Seeds. I’ll keep on harvesting just the outer leaves of these lettuces, so they should last me a good couple of months, and I know that it’s time to sow another batch of lettuces right now, although if I get round to this is another matter…

Lettuce seeds waiting in the wings are: ‘Cocarde’ and ‘Red Sails’ (from Nicky’s Seeds) and ‘Crisp Mint’, ‘Really Red Deer Tongue’ and ‘Devil’s Tongue’, (all from The Real Seed Company).

Should I develop a glut of leaves, Nigel Slater has a great recipe for lettuce, pea and mint soup in ‘Tender: Volume 1’. Very tasty and utterly refreshing. I wish I’d discovered this years ago.

Golden Streaks Mustard leafMy mustard leaves sown at the same time are now going to seed (‘Golden Streaks’ above), and although the leaves are getting spicier by the day, still taste great when used sparingly in salads, as do the flowers.

Sweet CicelyAnd Sweet Cicely adds a lovely aniseed note to the mix too.
Front garden lettuce bed with alliums and mustard leavesIt’s so lovely to have dinner on my doorstep, with the odd bit of decoration too.  (Allium Globemaster just about to come into bloom there.)
Front garden veg bed with runner beans and tomatoesAnd bed no. 2 has runner beans, tomatoes, sweet peas and radishes for more front garden veg (and deliciously scented blooms) later in summer. (Mustard leaf ‘Red Giant’ at the front of the bed, also just about to go to seed.)

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January salad leavesAlthough I’ve started to buy in lettuces from my local greengrocer, this mild weather has meant that I still have a fair few herbs and autumn leaves in the garden which greatly improve the flavour (and texture) of otherwise rather dull salads.

This is what’s still growing in the garden (clockwise from top left):

I’m amazed that I have quite a number of flowers on some late self-seeded Borage plants, sitting atop what is left of my autumn ‘Solix’ lettuces (normally frosted and over by now). Next are some fiery mustard leaves (because I didn’t get around to sowing a late batch of the more gentle ‘Green in Snow’) resting on top of my Sugar Loaf Chicory. I really love this Chicory leaf. It’s the only truly winter leaf I’ve grown this year and it’s the softness of the leaf I appreciate, as well as the gentle bitter taste. It contrasts well with the crispness and sweetness of bought Cos lettuces and both combine well with a punchy vinaigrette. I’ve covered up some plants with fleece whilst others are without protection against the elements, and the only difference that I’ve noticed so far is that the covered ones have more tiny black slugs in/on them, so extra caution is needed when washing!

Just below are some nasturtium leaves, nice and peppery and to the right of these is some Salad Burnet, supplying a very subtle cucumber flavour. At 6 o’clock are the remains of my Buckler Leaf Sorrel, deliciously lemony with a succulent bite, and finally there’s the last few pickings of Sweet Cicely. I feel like weeping that I’ll be deprived of this gentle aniseed flavour (and feathery texture) soon and for the next two or three months, as a small amount of this wonderful perennial herb can really transform a salad from bland to positively tasty.

I know that as soon as some colder weather appears, most of these leaves will vanish, but I’m cherishing these sumptuous, tangy salad leaves (and flowers) for as long as they last.

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All Year Round lettuce-leggy

I love lettuces. Can never get enough of them. This year I was determined to get sowing nice and early and be eating my home-grown leaves by the end of May. Well, I found a mildish day at the beginning of March and optimistically sowed a number of small trays of lettuces. I popped them into my mini outdoor greenhouse (with no heat) and started to get excited. Six weeks on, and a lot later than I had planned, I’m pricking out these ‘All the year around’ lettuce seedlings above into modules. They’re rather on the leggy side due to the low light conditions and low temperatures that we’ve had in March.

All Year Round lettuce-pricked out

However, these leggy stems can be twirled around into the soil when you’re pricking out your seedlings (I use a spindly crochet hook, although I can’t crochet) and hopefully, with much better light levels (hurrah!), should go on to be very healthy seedlings indeed. So far I’ve sown

  • Ashbrook (a frilly loose leaved variety, but sadly they didn’t germinate-disappointing, but luckily a rare occurence these days!)
  • Chatsworth (A chunky dark green Cos lettuce  from Sea Spring Seeds, claiming to be virtually bitter free)
  • Red Salad Bowl (another red frilly type from Sea Spring Seeds)
  • All the year around (a soft butterhead, hopefully slow to bolt from Seed Parade)

but Michelle at Veg Plotting has sown an impressive 22 different varieties this year and is hoping to add a few more as part of her 52 Week Salad Challenge. Really looking forward to seeing how they all grow. I wish I had a bit more growing space! I’m just off to sow a few more varieties:

  • Cocarde (a very tasty pointy upright reddish tinged oak leaf lettuce that I loved last year, available from Chilterns Seeds)
  • Freckles (a fab lightish green Cos, spotted with reddy/brown markings, that gave me delicious salads all  summer long last year. Originally from Sarah Raven, but grown this year from my own painstakingly collected seeds!)
  • Navara (a deep red oak leaf from Sarah Raven, new to me this year)
  • Forellenschluss (an heirloom Cos variety from Chilterns seeds, means ‘speckled like a trout’ and I wonder if this is very similar to/ the same as ‘Freckles’?)

Out of everything I grew last year, I think lettuces gave me the best return for the space and time they occupied. I loved experimenting with ‘no dig’ potatoes and rainbow carrots in pots-they were a true delight to unearth-but it was the lettuces that kept me in dinners all summer long, from June until August. I’m so looking forward to planting these seedlings out to create decorative displays (as well as supplying many meals) and I still have it firmly in my head to try and master successive planting of these leaves (sowing again in July and August), so that I can have salads all year round from my own garden.

p.s. I’ve also sown ‘Green in Snow’, ‘Red Knight Mizuna’ and ‘Broad leaved Mizuna’ to add a mustardy bite and extra texture to my salads.

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