A one woman market garden. Destination unclear......
Thursday, 12 April 2012
Lettuce is one of the sections in seed catalogues that I find myself poring over, trying to decide just which of those fine looking heads will make it into my neat little rows of green and red frilliness. I like them all really, from the flimsy floppy butterheads to the stern serious cos and romaines, and all that comes inbetween and off to each side. I like the fact that lettuce can be sown weekly for most of the year and I like starting off a batch of hardier types to sit nicely over the winter. All year production is entirely possible, with cloches or a polytunnel. Lettuce in winter is a crisp, refreshing alternative green to cabbagey kale or parpy sprouts.
I'm sure that lettuce will be an invaluable weekly item in my veg boxes, either sitting pretty as a whole head or turned into a bag of multicoloured, multitextured, multiflavoured leaves. Cutting a whole head frees up space for more salads, but there's something sneakily satisfying about giving a quick trim to a block of lettuce because in a week or so I can go back and cut it again! I do like a plant that gives so much value for money.
Hardy winter varieties, first to be picked
So far this year I've sown Arctic King and Winter Density first of all, back in the depths of February. Today I picked the first of these leaves for some salad bags. Coming up fast behind them are Webbs Wonderful, a faithful relic from last year; Kriska, a pretty light green frilly leaf, and Little Gem, which needs little introduction. For some splashes of colour I have Freckles, which I've long wanted to try and is looking as good as its name; Marvel of Four Seasons, a fine red leaved butterhead; Concorde, a beautiful oakleaf in a bronzy red and a Provencal Mix which includes corn salad, sorrel and chervil for a little bit of piquancy.
Marvel of Four Seasons and Freckles in the polytunnel
I don't have a recipe as such, I just mix, wash and pack the leaves available on the day. For a surprise element there will shortly be olive leaved rocket added to mixed leaves, or flat leaved parsley, coriander, baby chard and spinach. Winter salads will be perked up with further spicy oriental greens, mizuna, mibuna and a touch of mustard to liven up the colder months.
But for now it's a case of regular sowings followed by regular planting out, wither in the polytunnel or under fleece outdoors - just to be on the safe side. I'm looking forward to pulling off the covers after the last frosts to reveal my slightly wonky rows of beautiful salads.