The next time you’re hosting a meal, try some of these tips for a more nutritious and flavorful experience.
For a truly enriching experience, plant a mix of different types of greens for staggered harvests such as different varieties of lettuce, kale, arugula, herbs, mustards, Asian greens, and more. While baby leaf greens are growing in popularity, growing your own mix will create a blend of texture and flavor seldom available anywhere else. And as opposed to mature greens, baby leaf greens can be harvested in less than a month. Tender greens such as the 2022 AAS-winning Bauer lettuce thrive indoors, out in the garden, and, most notably, as part of hydroponic systems. Other varieties such as Red Sails, Ashley, or Red Oakleaf can lend their own unique flavors with a splash of red color. Ashley Lettuce will even tolerate warmer weather compared to other varieties. Let this be your year to spice up the salads, burgers, and more that come to your plate.
In general, you will want to remove the pistils and stamens for a better flavor. Because pollen is found on these plant parts, it can sometimes trigger allergic reactions. Simply remove them to avoid any issues. In addition to removing these plant parts, you should always wash your flowers with water. This will not only remove dirt and pollen but will also help to remove any lingering pests.
After harvesting, edible flowers can be used for up to a week when stored in a refrigerator. Because flower consumption isn’t as popular as eating the rest of the plant, many people are hesitant to try–totally understandable. It may take some time to practice and trust using them, but with time you can gain greater confidence in your ability to cook with raw edible flowers.
Just like the United States, Asia experiences all four seasons, and many Asian varieties are adaptable to cool, hot, dry, and humid conditions. The 2018 AAS-winning Pak Choi Asian Delight F1 is one of the best examples; a cultivar of napa cabbage (Chinese) proven to tolerate some of the most challenging gardens while boasting double the yields as the competition. Add some extra color to your salads with the 2016 AAS-winning Mizuna Red Kingdom F1 that can also stand up to the summer heat as an edible crop or ornamental in your garden.
Always buy microgreen seeds from a trusted source because not every crop is tasty or even safe to grow as a microgreen. Always grow seeds that has been specifically marked for use as a microgreen or sprout. The best part of growing microgreens is that you can do it from your kitchen counter and be ready to harvest in 7-10 days. Microgreens are typically sprouted with the use of soil, but many varieties thrive just as readily as hydroponics. When they have sprouted and are displaying their cotyledons (very first “leaves”) you can simply cut near the soil with some scissors and enjoy raw.
Microgreens can last 2-3 weeks when stored in optimal conditions. To maintain quality, store microgreens in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Waiting to wash and dry them immediately before use can also promote better shelf life. Some of the most popular types of microgreens to grow are arugula, amaranth, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, kale, radish, among dozens of others.
Unlike pretty much any other plant you grow, sprouts don’t need light except for adding a touch of flavorful chlorophyll. To start, soak your seeds in water for a few hours (depending on the type, size, and climate), continue to rinse 2-3 times a day, and allow some sunlight during the final 12-18 hours. Personally, I prefer using the hydroponic jar method because all it requires is a reusable mason jar, sprouting lid, seed, and water. But you can also use a tray or sprouting bag for larger quantities and convenience while traveling. One of my favorite aspects of growing sprouts, and even microgreens, is that you can grow fresh food on the go and away from home. This can be especially handy for all you wandering nomads out there.
What Will You Make?
Written By: Ashleigh Smith
NGB Member: True Leaf Market
“This post about Salad Greens is provided as an educational/inspirational service of the National Garden Bureau and our members. Please credit and link to National Garden Bureau and author member when using all or parts of this article.”