Salad Leaves


28 January 2021  |  by Gemma McFarlane

Each year we throw away 40% of bagged lettuce from our homes!

Shipping lettuce to the UK from abroad can use 127 calories of fuel energy to ship 1 calorie of lettuce!

salad leavesWe can grow salad leaves so easily for year round supply. Some grow without any help from us! There are so many varieties that you wouldn’t get in the supermarket and most are really quick and simple to grow.

Here’s a photo of my perpetual spinach and land cress. Taken on a January afternoon after a really frosty night and it’s still edible (once thawed)! It grows a lot slower in the winter but I find it does grow quicker if planted in the ground. I also have sorrel, rocket and parsley growing quite happily outside for a winter salad.

Here are a few suggestions of salad leaves to grow at home:

  1. Lettuce: Most lettuce varieties can be grown outside from March until November. If you haven’t got much space dedicated to growing vegetables, you could dot lettuce seedlings in between the other plants in your flowerbeds or in a large tub of peat-free compost.
  2. Cut and come again leaves: Sow mixed ‘cut and come again’ lettuce seeds. These salad leaves can be grown outside during the warmer months or inside on a windowsill all year round.
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  3. Perpetual salad leaves: Plant long lasting leaves in the garden such as land cress, sorrel, rocket and perpetual spinach. They prefer areas out of the full sun or they will bolt (grow upwards and set seed very quickly).Once established, if you leave land cress and rocket to flower and set seed, they will spread their seed and like any weed that chooses it’s own space, this will grow really well and give you a crop through the winter.
    Sorrel is a perennial plant which means it will grow again the following year. It has a lemony flavour. The young leaves are good for salads and the older leaves are good to add to stews and sauces at the last minute of cooking. Sorrel never really dies down in my garden but does slow down through the winter. It starts growing again in late February. Perpetual spinach is one of my favourite leaves. It’s available all year round. Like sorrel, the younger leaves can be used for salad and the older leaves for lightly cooking.
  4. Herbs: add extra flavour to your salads. Some herbs are a little tough so better for cooking or infusing oils and vinegars for dressings 
  5. Sprouting seeds: add texture, flavour and so much goodness to a salad. You can buy seeds for sprouting from seed manufacturers that are quite expensive. You can buy seeds from the wholefood shop in larger quantities and are much cheaper. NOTE: always check your seeds are edible raw. Kidney beans need boiling to kill the toxins before eating. Broad beans also contain a smaller amount of this toxin.
  6. Microgreens: are used a lot by trendy restaurants. They’re also very expensive to buy. They’re really easy to grow yourself and take just days. All you need is a seed tray, sterile compost, seeds, water and a windowsill. It’s a good way to use up old seeds too. 

Peatlands are our rainforests. Please always buy peat free compost – National Trust link

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