You can’t always get what you want
… But if you try sometimes
… you just might find
You get what you need.
Rolling Stones ‘Let It Bleed’ album, 1969
The vernal equinox has arrived and the garden is waking again from its wintry slumbers so it seems a good time to review my progress so far in the 52 Week Salad Challenge. You will find my previous posts on the subject here, here and here if you would like to read them.
The aim is to put home-grown salad on the plate every week of the year and technically I have managed to do that, but I don’t feel very satisfied with what I’ve done. What we have eaten has been either repetitive or in very small quantities or often both. In the garden there were only a few mizuna and mustard plants clinging on to life, offering little plus the over-wintering peas that I robbed a few shoots from. No more thanY a few mouthfuls.
I tried growing micro greens indoors – the harvest was tasty but minuscule, I didn’t get to grips with successional planting and I quickly got tired of having trays of seedlings cluttering up my kitchen work top (the only place with sufficient light). But I potted up several of the seedlings of parsley and coriander and they are growing on now in the greenhouse. I’m told I did well to get parsley to germinate that early in the year, for which I should probably thank the potting shed’s over-enthusiastic wood-burning stove and excellent insulation!
The challenge pushed me to resurrect my sprouting jars. I tried a few seeds that were new to me but quickly settled into my old favourites – chick peas, mung beans and alfalfa, plus a new one, Puy lentils, which are delicious.
So, overall not a resounding success, it is true, but am I down-hearted? No, not at all, quite the contrary. I may not have filled our stomachs but the challenge has made me think, involved me in a community of like-minded gardeners and fuelled my determination to do better next winter.
Ever since I started this garden I have wanted to grow food for all year round but have never come close to achieving it. I gave up growing main crop potatoes because blight gets them, pumpkins are my biggest (only?) success, although the mice ate most of them this year. The trouble is I get all excited about sowing and planting in spring and then I run out of energy and enthusiasm. I think the main reason is that I have never been sure what I should be doing, what crops can be grown for winter and early spring and when to sow, how to make a follow-on crop fit into a four year rotation cycle.
A few weeks ago Michelle, whose idea the salad challenge was, interviewed Charles Dowding, the well-known organic gardener and advocate of no-dig gardening, for her blog. As a result of reading this very interesting interview I bought two of Charles’ books*.
The books are just what a gardener needs – they inspire you to try something and they give you the information you need in order to succeed, plus there are lots of good photographs. He has also written a book on salads for winter, but I went for the winter vegetables one because, in truth, I don’t want to eat a lot of salad over winter, I prefer warm vegetables and veggie-packed soups. In any case there are sections on salad growing in the book. I was surprised to learn that many of the winter crops have to be started now, I had assumed one started them much later. I can’t wait to get going when the current cold spell lets up.
My plan is to grow as many different things as I can since there will inevitably be failures (our mountain winters are very unpredictable) and I will start to learn what works and what doesn’t. You never know, I might even manage to grow Brussels sprouts (which are very nice raw in salads, by the way). And, of course, I will tell you all about it. One final thought on salads: if, like me, your vinaigrettes can be a bit hit and miss you will find a great vinaigrette recipe here on Carl Legge’s excellent website. In fact, you’ll find lots of lovely recipes there, including salads made with foraged plants and even ‘weeds’.
not a salad but you may remember the rhubarb that I dug up and then forgot and finally transplanted to the greenhouse after weeks of bad weather. Well, here it is looking very happy and we had our first taste of the year this evening, stewed with apple, orange zest and cinnamon.