Tag Archives: salad

The Salad Challenge – February’s progress

My original enthusiasm for the 52 Week Salad Challenge seems to have diminished a little, which is a shame. I have been distracted by the problems we have been experiencing with the snow and cold, but I think also I am frustrated at what feels like just tinkering with putting food on a plate rather than getting outside and ‘really’ growing it.

I have continued to experiment with sprouting other things than my staple chickpeas, mung beans and alfalfa. The big success has been Puy or green lentils, which taste very similar to mung beans and grow as quickly. They have an advantage over mung in that they do not shed their outer skin. This skin tastes papery and can distract from the overall satisfaction of eating mung sprouts and I often remove as many as I can. To have an easily available alternative without that inconvenience is good news.

I have also tried quinoa (pronounced keenwa), which, for anyone who is not familiar with it, is a grain of the amaranthus family. It is popular with people with a gluten intolerance since it contains no gluten. I was warned to rinse them very well because the outer casing is high in saponins, which are a mild gastrointestinal irritant. What I noticed was that the water I rinsed them in was cloudy. The grains were quick to germinate but then reached about one cm in length and stopped growing. Sprouts need either to come from large seeds like chickpeas or to grow a good sized sprout (alfalfa, for example), otherwise they are a pretty disappointing mouthful. Quinoa failed that test and, worse still, was virtually tasteless. I left them several days hoping for more growth that just didn’t come, during which time the cloudiness of the rinsing water worsened, which put me off them completely. I tried growing them twice and threw them away both times.

The only other observation I have to make on sprouts is a failure of one batch of chickpeas. I have known chickpeas to start sprouting while I am still soaking them. They are the sprinters of the sprouting world. But during the recent very cold weather one batch barely sprouted at all. Other people on the salad challenge noted the same thing although we disagreed as to whether it was the cold or the low light levels that caused it. I am pretty convinced that in my case it was primarily lack of light, a second batch, started when it was still as cold but the days were sunny, germinated well.

Coriander micro greens

I had a bit of a disaster with my first attempt at micro greens (see here) but I tried again. This time I grew peas, coriander and parsley and instead of leaving them under the north-facing roof light each day I brought them into the kitchen in as much light as I could find. In a small kitchen this is, frankly, a nuisance. The results have certainly been better, the pea sprouts grew well and were not at all leggy, the coriander germinated very well, albeit a little leggy. Mark Diacono (@markdoc) of Otter Farm suggests eating the coriander as soon as the seed leaves have formed for the most intense flavour. He is not wrong – the flavour is immense. The pea sprouts have a wonderful ‘mange-tout in a leaf’ taste. Disappointingly, having pick the tops from the peas, rather than regrowing about half of them keeled over and died.

The parsley, which I am not treating just as a micro green, I shall grow on some of the better seedlings, germinated very well but were, once again, horrendously leggy. With these I followed the advice of Alys Fowler (@alysfowler) on Twitter and spread more compost on top to cover the long spindly stems. I damaged one or two in the process but the rest really responded well and are now growing slowly but strongly. What excellent advice.

One comment I would make about micro greens is that the amount you can harvest from one tray is very small, you still need fully grown salad leaves to make a proper sized plateful. This just makes me all the more determined to over-winter salads successfully this year.

My apologies for the paucity of photographs, I have definitely been distracted by this stuff:

The potager is under here somewhere

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Brussels are not the only sprouts

I have signed up for the 52 Week Salad Challenge over on the Veg Plotting blog. The idea is to grow or forage salad ingredients every week of the year. This has been on my ‘Must Do’ list ever since I arrived in France, but, while during the summer it is easy, my good intentions slide quickly away as the nights grow shorter and colder. So I welcome this as an opportunity to try new things and learn what other people are doing.

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If you want to read about the challenge you will find the first explanatory post here. You can also follow our progress on Twitter via the #saladchat hash tag.

My contribution so far to the challenge is to sow seeds of mixed salad leaves, spinach and celery. These are sitting on a shelf just under a Velux where it should be both bright and warm. In addition I have restarted sprouting, something I have done intermittently for many years. For anyone who doesn’t know about sprouting there is an excellent introduction to it here on the Veg Plotting blog.

Sprouting

I have tended to be rather conservative in my choice of seeds to sprout, using mainly chick peas, mung beans and alfalfa. Chick peas are probably the easiest of all to do, being ready to eat within 2 days. At this stage the shoots are tiny but, in my opinion, at their best. The taste is like pea pods. I also prefer mung beans when the shoots are tiny, not like the Chinese bean sprouts. The sprouts of the tiny-seeded alfalfa, in contrast, need to be much longer when harvested. These are the ones in the jar closest to the camera in this picture

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and they have been growing for three days. I will probably leave them for a further two days. My favourite way to serve them is this salad, which probably came from Rose Elliot’s ‘Not Just A Load Of Old Lentils’ (which, sadly, I no longer have):

Carrot and Alfalfa Sprout Salad

Mix together equal quantities of grated carrot and alfalfa sprouts. Make a vinaigrette using grape seed oil and orange juice, add a small amount of acacia honey, mix and pour over the salad.

The other jar in the picture contains fenugreek seeds, which is a new one for me. We ate some at lunch and I found them a little underwhelming. But I do have a cold so perhaps the flavour couldn’t get through. I shall be trying other new sprouts such as lentils, beetroot and broccoli in the coming weeks. Sprouting is the simplest way to put something fresh on your plate. They are quick to reach harvest and you don’t even have to get your hands dirty. Why not try it for yourself?