Archive for category Leaves & Salad

Perilla (Shiso)

Family Lamiaceae:  (Perilla frutescens var crispa)

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Tender Self-Seeding leafy herb

Also known as Shiso or beefsteak plant.  Perilla is a member of the Lamiaceae family, which includes many strong aromatic herbs including; mint, basil, rosemary, lavender, Melissa, marjoram and sage. This tender bushy herb is grown for its aromatic leaves, flower buds and seeds. Used extensively in East Asia as a vegetable and as a herb it makes a great addition to a kitchen or herb garden.

History The plant is native to South East and East Asia.

Site & Soil Warm, light well-drained soil. Prefers acid soils of PH 5.5 -6. Seems to grow on any soil and does not require rich soil. Best grown in full sun or partial shade in mild climates. Perilla will happily grow in pots and borders. In warm temperate climates perilla will freely self-seed and can be invasive.

Propagation  Seeds require light to germinate and should have no or little covering of soil when sowing, but keep soil moist during the germination. To increase prospects of germination soak seeds overnight before sowing. Sow in situ or in trays at 15-20°C 30-40 days before last frost and plant out when all risk of frost has passed.

Sow (March) April-June   Spacing 30cm apart  Harvest All summer

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Giant Leaf Korean Shiso Seed

Care The growing points can be nipped out to keep the plants sturdy. Warm temperatures, long day length and adequate moisture are required for good vegetative growth, and short days for flower production.

Spread Stands around 3ft tall.

Harvest  The flavour is best when the leaves are picked about 5cm wide.

Storage Store fresh in a salad chiller for several days. Leaves can be pickled or dried for longer storage.

Botany and Seed Saving Plants are propagated by seed they flower and seed in late summer-autumn viability of seed is reduced after one year at room temperature but can be kept longer if kept under 5c. Some sources state that the seed can lie dormant for 1-2 years but that a period of 1-2 months in cold will re-activate the seeds, which might explain why it self-seeds so well, the seeds are happy to survive cold winters to germinate the following spring.

Use Leaves are often served whole as decoration and are to be eaten wrapped around raw fish or cooked foods on the plate. Fresh leaves can be used to wrap meats or stuffing mixes into parcels or rolls before cooking. The leaves are often shredded and served in salads with cucumber, cabbage or radish or as garnishes or flavouring for beef, eggs, potatoes, rice etc. The leaves can be used as a vegetable; braised or fried in oil with garlic or ginger in a wok or added to soups, they are also battered and served Tempura style then added to soups. Shiso leaves are a principal ingredient in shiso maki (rice and perilla wrapped in seaweed).  The seeds can be salted and pickled and are ground, often added to the famous seven spices of Japan, Shichimi. The red varieties are used as colouring and for flavouring pickles such as sour plums and ginger. Leaves can be pickled by steaming for 10 minutes then covering in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar. Leaves are also dried and sprinkled on rice. Miniature seedlings (sprouted seeds) can be used as a tasty garnish or micro green.

Recipes Pork Shiso Parcels

Other Properties has anti-inflammatory properties and is thought to help preserve and sterilize other foods.

Varieties Botanist consider the red and green types to be different. Red Shiso akajiso in Japanese is used to dye umeboshi pickled plums. While the green shiso aojiso is the stronger flavoured of the two  Korean Shiso is distinct from Japanese perilla the leaf appearance is different larger, rounder, flatter, with a less serrated edge, and often a violet coloring on the reverse side and the flavour is more reminiscent of apples and mint

My Growing Notes Freely self-seeds and does better than Basil in a hot or shady garden. I have not yet grown Perilla in England but I am about to sow some seeds so I would love to hear from anyone who has grown it in the UK.

Reference http://web.archive.org/web/20030608171945/http://www.crop.cri.nz/psp/broadshe/perilla.htm

http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1993/V2-322.html#Volatile%20Oil

Brenner, D.M. 1993. Perilla: Botany, uses and genetic resources. p. 322-328. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), New crops. Wiley, New York.

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An update to my growing notes on Agretti. This looks most appetising and I am starting to wonder if the variety I grew was more related to its genetic relative tumbleweed than this succulent looking variety. I saw this for sale just a few days ago in a market in Bologna, Italy.  So harvest time must be late spring. Unfortuntely the variety name is cut short by the camera – could it be Gostrani, bostrani, Sostrani?
Agretti for sale in Bologna Italy
Agretti For Sale in Bologna, Italy

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Agretti (Salsola soda)

Family: Amaranthaceae  Subfamily: Chenopodiaceae

Agretti, also known as Salsola Soda, Liscari, Barilla (Spanish) and Barba di Frate, Roscano or Agretto (Italian). A Mediterranean vegetable with thin succulent needle like leaves that grow on small bushy plants and is used mainly in Umbria and Lazio in pasta, seafood and fish dishes [1].

History Salsola soda is native in Eurasia and North Africa. Historically, it was well-known in Italy, Sicily, and Spain. In modern Europe, it is also found on the Atlantic coasts of France and Portugal and on the Black Sea coast [2]

Site & Soil It is a halophyte (a salt-tolerant plant) that typically grows in coastal regions and can be irrigated with salt water.
Temperature Min °C
Sow ? Feb-March Sept-Oct
Plant out ? April
Spacing 30-45cm apart
Crops in: 50 days
Harvest June-July
Seed Life 1-2 years
Germination 7-10 days

Propagation I sowed ia 1/4 tray in February and planted out in April.

Direct Sow 1cm deep spaced 10-15cm apart thin to 20-30cm apart. Some sources say this plant is not a summer green and should be started early indoors or in Autumn. In hot areas I would tend to agree with that as it gets woody quickly in dry conditions.   

Care Keep weed free generally seems to be pest free

Harvest Salsola soda is harvested in bunches when small, or cropped regularly to encourage new growth when mature. Start cutting from the plants when they are about 6-8 inches tall. Cut the green tops or sections of the plant; it then will regrow

Botany and Seed Saving Franchi say agretti never has more than 50% germination due to the nature of the seed and its volatility. Wiki says the seed is notorious for poor germination at about 30% to 40% standard. The seeds I had were over 80%.

Use The plant has great historical importance as a source of soda ash, which was extracted from the ashes of Salsola soda and other saltwort plants. Soda ash is one of the alkali substances that are crucial in glass and soap making. Salsola soda has also been studied as a “biodesalinating companion plant” for crops such as tomatoes and peppers when they are grown in saline soils. The Salsola soda extracts enough sodium from the soil to improve the growth of the crop plant, and better crop yields result despite the competition of the two plants for the remaining minerals from the soil. [3]

Nutrition/Cooking Rich in vitamins & minerals. Best lightly boiled until the leaves soften but retain a little crunch, and eaten as a leafy vegetable or salad ingredient or garnish (much like Samphire). It can also be eaten raw or braised in olive oil. The flavour is grassy, salty and slightly sour and works well with seafood.

My Growing Notes

Agretti has been billed as a gourmet delicacy in Italy and in Japan, but, in truth, I didn’t really warm to this plant as a food stuff. It took a long time to develop and when it did I didn’t really like it. It had needle thin succulent type leaves on stems that became woody. It has a slightly acidic grassy taste with not much going for it at all. It is not hugely different in taste or texture to purslane but purslane is far superior in my opinion with a much better taste and crunchier, juicier texture.
I must admit I did not give it a fair go, as far as the kitchen is concerned, I did not even attempt to cook it. I munched on it as I went round the garden but, well it just didn’t inspire me to pick any and take it back to the kitchen. I could imagine using it in a late winter – early spring salad but in summer in Southern France there are too many other delicious contenders that would beat it hands down. So guiltily, knowing I hadn’t given it a fair shot, I put it out of its, and my, misery and pulled up the 6 plants and slung them on the compost heap.

I may yet give it another shot and try again and see how it crops in England, particularly in a warm wet and maritime climate like we have here in Devon. I would still like to try cooking it Japanese style or pickling it in soy or something like that. One thing for sure is that the leaves need to be used when young, 4 months after setting out and the stems were really too woody to use. This picture of the plant in early July is when, on hindsight it probably should have been picked, but it just seemed so small and hardly a mouthful

Some cultivation notes
The only cultivation information I had for it was ‘this plant is not a summer green and should be started early indoors or in Autumn’ from wiki or ‘plant as soon as ground can be worked’ from Seeds of Italy. I started mine late February and set out early April but it hardly grew until mid summer, when the heat seemed to trigger it into action. I think Colin, who I got the seeds from, had the same issue with slow growth. Here’s a link to a picture of his agretti growing Colin’s Agretti Seedlings.  I am not sure how Lieven got on. 
Germination
 was actually very good near 100% not the 30% to 40% as suggested by wikipedia 
Matures
 50 or so days according to Seeds of Italy definitely not the case in my garden.

Info Contributed by readers

Dimitris Makris wrote:  My name is Dimitris and I live in Crete. The name of Agretti here in Greece is “almira” which means salty. It’ s my favorite salad, you have to pick it up early when it’s tender avoiding the woody leaves. In Greece we cut the tender stems about 12 cm not the main stem and it grows again… how we make it as a salad here in Greece: just boil them (not much) put them on a plate and then add olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar and you’ll have the best salad for fishes or anything fried…

I also want to inform you that there is an interesting site about seeds exchange with no money here in Greece: http://www.peliti.gr.


[1] franchi

[2] info sourced from wiki

[3]

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Growing Sprouting Seed

If you haven’t got a garden, or the time to wait for salad crops to mature in the ground, or despite your best efforts your lettuces have succumbed to a scorching summer, hungry wildlife or your summer holiday away; sprouting seeds will fill the gap.


Sprouted seeds are packed full of energy, are highly nutritious and are very easy to grow in your own kitchen, you don’t even need a garden.  They take only a few days and no special equipment to grow yet provide delicious, almost instant satisfaction, and dinner on the plate.

Seeds are just plants waiting to happen, dry they are in a dormant state and only need to be filled with water to become a living entity. Seeds sprout fastest in a warm light airy place, out of direct sunlight, with an ambient temperature of 18-22 Celsius, which is pretty much the condition of most kitchens. All you need is a large glass jar with a screw top lid and water. You can use a purpose made sprouter, there are many inexpensive types available, or you can make your own by piercing the lid of a jam jar to make drainage holes or securing a square of muslin over the top of the jar with an elastic band.

Method
Firstly soak the seeds in a large jar filled with cool water, as directed for each seed type. Empty out the water and flush with more fresh water to rinse then drain thoroughly. Rinse and drain the jar twice a day, until the seeds have sprouted and are ready to eat.You can decide for yourself at what stage you like them best, as soon as the seed has fattened up from its first soaking it can be eaten or it can be left to grow on until it has full size sprouts.

Storage
When the sprouted seeds are at their peak rinse, drain and empty into a paper lined plastic box or glass jar, seal and store in the lower part of a fridge. The temperature in the fridge will halt growth and the sprouts can be stored for several days in prime condition before being eaten.

What to sprout
Some of my favourite sprouted seeds are also the most commonly available to buy.
Alfalfa (Luzerne in French) Soak seeds for 4 hours. Alfalfa will be ready to eat in 3-7 days
Crisp sweet flavour like fresh peas, delicious raw in salads or sandwich fillings.  Rich in amino acids which are very important for the metabolism and helps lower cholesterol. Rich in phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, B1, C, D, E, K.
Mung Bean (Haricot mungo in French) Soak seeds for 12 hours will germinate ready to eat in 5-8 days. Delicious raw in rice noodle and oriental style soups & salads, stir fried or used as stuffing for spring rolls. These are the ‘beansprouts’ most commonly found in oriental shops and restaurants. Commercially they are hulled and grown in darkness and under weight pressure to achieve the dense white crisp sprouts we are familiar with.
Chick Peas (Pois chiches in French) Soak 4 tbsp peas for 8-12 hours ready to eat in 3-6 days
Lentils (Lentilles in French) Soak seeds for 8 hours will germinate ready to eat in 5-8 days

You can find seeds specifically for sprouting, from health food shops and some seed companies. You can also experiment with all manner of vegetable and herb seeds that can be sprouted and are delicious; including pumpkins, peas, sunflowers, broccoli, leeks, onions, and chives. For more information and inspiration on what and how to sprout visit Sprout People or  Primal Seeds.

Originally Posted  on Mas du Diable 16/8/2007:

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Angelica

Angelica Angelica archangelica or Archangelica officinalis is an umbelliferous plant and member of the Apiaceae family.

Archangelica officinalis

From December to April the fresh young leaves of Angelica are at their best. Angelica is a lovely herb that self-seeds and establishes itself easily. It is a fascinating and useful herb that has been in use since ancient times, for both medicine and food.

History
The name is said (1) to come from medieval Latin herba angelica, which means angelic herb, a name given to it because it was believed that the herb could protect against evil and cure all ills. Other sources (5) suggest the name comes from the Greek angelos meaning messenger because, according to legend, an angel visited a monk and told him the herb would cure his plague stricken village. Another source (6) claims it is  named for the old saints day of  Michael the Archangel, when it comes into flower. In older times the herb appears to have featured in pagan festivals and was dedicated to heathen gods. Whatever its folkloric or linguistic roots angelica was growing in a large clump in front of our house, perhaps to ward off evil spirits, when we first arrived here. Since then I have used Angelica’s self-seeding capacity to spread it to choice spots around the place so we now have a healthy and plentiful supply.

Description

The plant is a robust, aromatic biennial if left to self-seed or a short-lived perennial if the flower stalks are kept cut back. Plants are tall, the flower stalks reach 6ft, and need plenty of space.  It has thick, hollow, ridged stems and long-stalked, deeply divided green leaves. Umbels of tiny green-white flowers appear in summer followed by ovate, dark, ridged seeds in late summer/autumn.

Growing Angelica Propagate from seed; collect seeds in autumn and sow directly where you want them to grow.  You can also sow in modules to plant out later  or wait until spring to sow direct. (NB I’ve read that angelica seeds (5) have a short life and that viability can start to decrease after about 3 months, I am not sure about that, I am not convinced that is so).  Plants do need plenty of water and space, a deep rich soil and some shade in order to grow happily in the summer months. They self-seed easily so If you want to prevent spreading cut down the flower stalks before they set seed.  Left to self-seed the new shoots appear in late winter.

Harvesting Harvest leaves before the plant flowers and use fresh or dry for use later. Here on our land the young leaves are at their best from late autumn to early spring. Harvest stems while they are young and still bright green and before the flowers appear. The seeds are best collected in the autumn when the weather is dry.

Culinary Use The fresh young leaves can be eaten raw in salads or lightly cooked as you would spinach, while the stems are traditionally candied and used in confectionary. Its aromatic flavours makes it a useful pot herb in late winter and early spring when not much in the way of fresh greens are available. The leaves are often stewed with tart fruits such as gooseberries and rhubarb, to counteract and sweeten the acidity of the fruit. Angelica is also used in the preparation of a number of liqueurs such as; Chartreuse and Bénédictine and sometimes in absinthe. Last spring I tried making Candied Angelica using a recipe from (5) but it really didn’t work. It was too sugary and the colour and flavour was lost in the lengthy cooking process required so if anyone has any tips on making Candied Angelica PLEASE do post your comments.

Garden Use An excellent variety to add to a perennial & self-sowing wild-life and edible hedgerow, along with Alexanders, Chervil, Korean Mint, Mustards, Chicories, Kales and Fennel.

Medicinal Use
I’ve been looking into the medicinal uses for Angelica because I had an awful cough that just would not shift, 3 months and counting, so I’ve been drinking Angelica tea as a remedy, it certainly has reduced the symptoms and is pleasant to drink. I thought it might be useful to post up the information I’ve gathered.

This information comes from a combination of the sources listed. I’ve included information only when two or more sources agree that Angelica is a good remedy for the specific properties and ailments listed.

Angelica has a soothing, warming, stimulating action on the digestion, lungs and circulation and is often counted as one of the bitter herbs used to make the gastric tonics often called bitters.  Angelica contains chemical compounds that can relax and sooth the muscles of the windpipe and intestines and is said to be able to loosen phlegm in the lungs.

In particular Angelica can be used as a remedy for:

  • respiratory complaints such as; bronchitis, asthma, pleurisy,catarrh
  • colds, flu & chills
  • digestive problems such as; indigestion, wind and heartburn
  • poor circulation
  • exhaustion and rheumatic pains (external)
  • swellings, itching and rheumatism. (external)

Preparations

leaves, stems dried roots and seeds are used. 
Infusion (tea)
 The fresh or dried leaves can be steeped in hot water to make Angelica tea.
Infusion (root tea) 1 tsp dried Angelica root is added to 1 cup boiling water and steeped 15 to 20 min. Take 1 spoonful 3-4 times a day 
Decoction
 The dried roots or stems are mashed and boiled for 8-10 minutes then strained. 
External use
 – add crushed leaves to a bath to relieve exhaustion and rheumatic pains. 
Poultice
 – fresh leaves can be crushed and rubbed on skin areas for swellings, itching and rheumatism.

Angelica Seeds

Reference Sources
1.       A-Z of Natural Remedies by Amanda Sandeman
2.       Off-The-Shelf Natural Health How to use Herbs and Nutrients to Stay Well by Mark Mayell
3.       Herbs and Health Nicola Peterson
4.       Encyclopedia of Herbs and their uses, by Deni Bown The Royal Horticultural society
5.       The complete Book of Vegetables Herbs & Fruit Mathew Biggs, Jekka McVicar and Bow Flowerdew
6.      The Country Diary Herbal Sarah Hollis

CAUTION
I think this is a herb to approach with caution because several sources provide a warning (4) that the fresh roots are poisonous, (5) large doses can paralyse or depress the central nervous system and Angelica tea is not recommended for those with diabetes as it can cause an increase of sugar in the urine. At one time large doses of Angelica were used to induce miscarriages so it is obviously a herb to use in moderation and with caution. 

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Chard or Leaf Beet

Chard or Swiss Chard, Beta vulgaris Cicla, is a member of the Chenopodiaceae family of plants. Known as poirée, bette or blette in France, it is a popular kitchen garden vegetable, although less known in the UK.  Chard is an excellent leafy vegetable; an all-rounder, tough, reliable and productive throughout the year, making it an excellent choice for any kitchen garden. The leaves can be used like spinach and the ribs are a delicious vegetable in their own right, particularly the varieties with thick ribs.

Biennial Hardy Edible Leafy plant

Chard, Verte a Carde Blanche, April 2007

History  The cultivation of chard dates back to classic antiquity. The Greeks and Romans used it widely but it did not become popular in Europe until the middle ages.

Site & Soil  Swiss Chard is tough, tolerant of poor soils, shade, heat and temperatures down to –14c. It will grow best in a sunny site at  10-25c °C

Propagation  Chard will produce all year from a single sowing, it can be succession sown through the year or my preference is to make 2 sowings per year one in late winter/early spring and one in late summer/early autumn. Improve germination by soaking seeds for 24hrs before sowing to break down the hard seed shell.  Germinates 7-10days.

Sow (Feb) March-June and August-Sept (Oct) Crops Spring 60days Summer 45days

Spread 25cm x 45cm

Method

1. Sow in situ in drills 1-3cm deep, in rows 30cm apart. Thin, when the seedlings have 4-5 leaves, to 22cm apart
2. Sow undercover in cells and transplant after 4-6weeks
3. Sow 3-4 seeds in stations 20-25cm apart in rows 45cm apart
4. Broadcast sow in 10cm wide drills and treat as a CCA.

Harvest (April-May) May-Nov and Dec-April

It is in season for most of the year from early summer until mid to late spring the following year from an early spring sowing.Cut outer leaves just above ground level from several plants rather than completely stripping one. Continual cutting of outer leaves through the season ensures the production of new young tender leaves. Chard can be harvested at the baby leaf  stage for use in salad or as a cooked vegetable either use the thinnings or treat as a cut and come again by cutting the small plants down to just above the soil surface.

Storage Pick as required or harvest and store leaves in a fridge for up to 1 week.

Botany and Seed Saving  Retains 50% germination for 6 years. In mild winter climates the seed-to-seed method is used to produce seed in colder climates with frost killing winter the seed-to-root-to-seed method should be used. Thresh dried seed stalks and winnow to remove plant debris.  Beet seeds have an unusual structure in that each seed is a group of flowers held together by their petals. These clusters usually contains 2-5 seeds. An outbreeding, wind-pollinated plant with pollen travel up to 5 miles. Minimum of 6 plants required for seed production.

Companion Swiss chard is said to grow well with carrots, cabbage, beans, radish and turnip/swede. I find it grows particularly well next to aubergines.

Use as you would spinach; young leaves raw in salads and older leaves and ribs as a pot herb or leafy green.

Nutrition Swiss Chard is rich in Iron and Vitamin A as well as a useful amounts of Vitamin B & C.

Varieties

Verte a Carde Blanche Classic French variety with thick white succulent midribs and tasty dark green leaves. Really delicious this is my all time favourite chard variety.

Bright Lights A swiss chard with a mix bright colourful stems and a mild, sweet flavour. It will overwinter to provide leaves during milder weather in winter and into spring.

Lucullus A swiss chard with thinner 2-3cm wide pale green to white ribs and light green crinkle edged leaves.

Zilver thick white ribs and green leaves i found it disappointing (i grew an organic variety from unwins).

Perpetual Spinach A long-standing easy to grow spinach like green, it is actually a slim stalked, smooth leaf swiss chard or leaf beet. It is quite hardy and prolific supplying a “perpetual” harvest of leaves throughout the year. It is much slower to bolt during the hot weather and long days of summer than true spinach. Maturity from fifty days onward.

Further Reading

Seed to Seed: Suzanne Ashworth, p71

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Tarragon Stops Sneezing

Tarragon is not a herb that I use that much in the kitchen because not everyone likes it, but it really is a useful herb to grow even if you don’t cook with it. Rachel had been sneezing for several hours, after clearing the attic, when we went round to visit our friends, Geoff and Doug. She was still sneezing so they told her  to eat some Tarragon and all would be well. After some face pulling, she doesn’t like the taste of tarragon, the sneezing just stopped, absolutely miraculous!

If you are suffering from sneezing caused by an allergic reaction to dust or pollen (it works on hayfever too) chew on a little piece of the fresh tarragon leaves and the sneezing will just stop.

Pine pollen sets me off sneezing and Rachel is allergic to all kinds of pollen, dust, cats you name it, so I had better make sure I take better care of my tarragon plant now that I’ve found out how useful it actually is.

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Broccoli Raab

Cima di Rapa, Brassica Rapa generally classified in the Ruvo Group, is a fast growing brassica closely related to turnips and oriental greens. In Italy this vegetable is called Cima di Rapa and is also known as: turnip tops, broccoletto, broccoli de rabe, sprouting turnip tops, turnip mustard or rapini. It is grown primarily for the leaves, edible stem and the small bud clusters. The taste is light and mustardy with an interesting broccoli like nutty sweetness.  These winter and spring greens are hugely popular in Northern Italy, with both gardeners and cooks. In Italy most home gardeners seem to grow it and it is the star of a number of classic Italian dishes including Orecchiete e Cima di Rapa , pasta primavera, potato and spring greens pie, otherwise the greens are simply pan fried in olive oil with a little garlic or chilli pepper to taste.

Varieties
Varieties are named by the number of days they take to mature, I’ve found varieties named 40, 60, 90 or 120.
Harvest
To harvest, simply cut the budding shoots just before the flowers open at ground level or at a level where the stem is starting to get woody. Harvest until shoots are too small and tough. If the weather remains cool, you can expect a second and possibly third cutting from each plant.
Nutrition & Use
A versatile cooking green Broccoli raab can be boiled, steamed, sautéed, or fried. It can be used in soups, stir-fries, pies or in any dish you might use other cooking greens. Like most brassicas Broccoli raab is pretty healthy stuff. Rich in vitamins and minerals particularly Vitamins A and C, iron, folate, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Cultivation
Sow in drills, lightly cover with soil and keep well watered then thin to ideal spacing as they grow. Best suited to the cooler months and in my garden it grows well undercover from a November sowing, or from an autumn or early spring sowing outdoors.
Season & Temperature In Italy Cima di Rapa is considered a late winter and early spring vegetable.
Sow Jul-Oct

Sow Undercover November

Harvest Nov-March
Spacing Rows 25-30cm apart, plants 10-15cm apart in the row.
Crops in 5-6 weeks 40-120 days depending on the variety.

Seed Life

More info
Growing Rapini

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Lettuces, Winter Varieties

Winter Lettuces are varieties of lettuces that can be sown late in the season, will tolerate cold and low light levels and still provide leaf pickings for the salad bowl right through winter and into spring. Some of my favourite lettuces are these hardy types because they have robust flavours, crisp leaves and good textures.

Winter Lettuce Rouge Grenobloise

Winter Lettuce Verde D’Inverno

Timing
Lettuces mature in around 50-60 days when grown at optimum temperatures but the lettuce will slow down in cold weather, a trait which gardeners can use to their advantage. In cold weather a lettuce can stand fresh and ready to be picked for 2 or more months, it won’t go to seed and if you can protect the crop from very cold or wet weather and if you can get the timing right it will stand in perfect condition right through winter. So plan your winter crop of lettuce so that it is almost ready to pick by the first frosts of winter. At that stage it is large enough to stand light frost outdoors and undercover survive happily in surounding tempertures of -10c.

Lettuces Winter Density young heads ready to cut

My pick of varieties
To get a good lettuce crop throughout winter it is best to select winter lettuce varieties, those that have proven themselves or been selected for thier growth habit and hardiness. My favourites include:
Winter Density (Cos) a lovely solid crisp green heading cos, standing tall and fairly tightly wrapped; excellent undercover in winter and outdoors in late winter/early spring. Rouge Grenobloise (Batavian) Large crispheads with red-tinted ruffled leaves, good flavour, cold hardy and will grow happily in shade; an excellent winter lettuce outdoors. Ubriacona (Loose Leaf Batavian) This Italian Heirloom has beautiful green hearts with red outer edged leaves, performs well and has great taste and texture. Provides cutting lettuce all year and will overwinter in my garden. Verde D’Inverno (Cos) Tall mid green heads crisp leaves with good taste. Stands well through winter. Rougette de Montpelier, (Butterhead) tight heading lettuce with crisp white stalks and soft green leaves tinged red at the edges, this variety can be grown undercover or outdoors but I find the flavour is better and the heads are crisper if grown outdoors. Valdor (Butterhead) I grew this lettuce for the first time 2 years ago so I am still testing it out and cannot thoroughly recommend it yet. It grew well in the polytunnel producing voluminous green heads with large fleshy leaves. But it suffered from mildew undercover, as spring approached and temperatures soured undercover, it may do better outdoors so I’ll give it another try this winter.

Varieties
Let-Rougette-de-Montpellier.jpgLettuce-Winter-Density-Poly.jpgLettuce_Ubriacona-30.4.08.jpgLettuce_Valdor-CU-4-08.jpg
Images
Rougette de Montpelier, Winter Density, Ubriacona, Valdor

Read more about growing lettuces
Cultivating Lettuces in Summer

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Cutting Back Mint

By late summer mint is usually looking decidedly unappetising, long straggly flower stems and burnt out leaves. But mint, given a good haircut, will come back with flush of tasty fresh leaves.

It is a very simple job that does not need any finesse. Use a pair of secateurs or even shears and cut the long stems back to a  few buds above ground level or to a height you prefer.

Straggly mint in late summer

Mint stems cut back

Mint that has been cut back now has a new flush of growth

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