By Susan Pollack, Master Food Volunteer
The heat of the summer is setting in and it may be a little late to get your vegetable garden started from scratch, but wait, you can still plant lettuces from seed and harvest the leaves and create your own “spring lettuce mix.” And it couldn’t be simpler. All you need is a sunny location—inside or out, a windowsill, a table by a sunny window, a patio. Don’t fret about having a flower pot, any container will do. If you don’t have a flowerpot, cut a milk carton or gallon container to four or five inches from the bottom. The only things you’ll need to purchase are soil and some lettuce seeds. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the seeds, now is a great time to try the mixes and you can find out what you really like, try arugula, mache, any of the lettuces.
Fill the container to an inch from the top. Scatter the seeds over the soil (don’t worry about thinning—that will be your baby lettuces!). Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil, just to cover, not too thick or the seeds may not germinate. Then, using a spray bottle or something similar, spray water over the soil, making sure the top half inch or so is moist. That’s it, just keep spraying the soil every day to keep it moist and wait for the seeds to germinate. It’s important to keep the soil moist, not saturated. As the leaves begin to appear, just cut them when they get to about an inch and a half, two inches tall, rinse them and they are ready to eat. You have your own salad mix and for a fraction of the cost. Continue to reseed the soil throughout the summer and early fall and enjoy.
What about the salad?
While you’re waiting for your salad greens to grow, don’t forget to check your farmers’ markets for lettuces or get some from the grocery store. A salad is a great accompaniment to any meal or a great meal in itself. Don’t just stick to your standard salad of tomatoes and cucumbers; try fruit and other vegetables in your salad. Try some of the wonderful stone fruits that are appearing now in the market: peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots. Slice the fruit into slivers and add to your greens. Add some slivered nuts, seeds such as chia, sesame, flax if you’d like, and dress.
Wait, don’t use that bottled dressing—way too many calories, and your own dressing can be so refreshing. The idea to a dressing is one part acid, such as any kind of vinegar—try red wine, white wine, balsamic, apple—or use fresh lemon or lime, to two parts oil. Again, try different oils. Olive oil is very popular in a salad dressing, but if you’d like a milder oil, try canola, grapeseed, or safflower. Then add a few shakes from the salt shaker and the same with black pepper.
To make a side salad for two people, in a bowl add:
- Two handfuls of lettuce (baby lettuces or tear up full leaves).
- Cut up a peach, nectarine, or plum into small wedges, or whatever you prefer,
- One tablespoon of slivered almonds or any other chopped nuts
- One teaspoon of seeds
Directly to the bowl, add one teaspoon of flavored vinegar or squeeze a quarter of a lemon or lime (careful of the fruit seeds), two teaspoons of oil, salt and pepper and mix all together.
If you want to make your salad into a meal, add some protein, such as cheese, a hardboiled egg, some canned beans that have been rinsed, or left over chicken or turkey. The great thing about a salad is there are unlimited variations so they never need to be boring.