Signs of Life and an Unexpected Salad

First Anemone

First Flowers

Apart from going to the Neighbourfood Market, I also found some inspiration in the garden this weekend. As always, I was late with getting my broad beans and alliums in. They should get planted before the first frosts so that you get an early crop in the early summer.

We haven’t had any frost yet, as far as I can tell, so I was still able to plant them out, although they will be a bit later than I had hoped. In an attempt to do some decent successional sowing, for once, I have only planted half a bed with beans, so I can plant more later. I also still have onion sets, but no space in their designated beds, so I will plant them in planters when I get some potting compost mixed up. I planted Troy white onions and Onion Electric (red) from sets, and Marco Garlic. I only used the fattest cloves, from the outside of the bulbs. The rest are waiting in my cupboard to have in some dish or another. No point in wasting them! The beans were Aquadulce Claudia and the reliable Sutton.

Primula

Early Colour

I also planted a French leaf salad mix, and some rocket to grow indoors as cut and come again salad, because I need something to use for the 52 Week Salad Challenge, as issued by Veg Plotting. I have decided to join this, because I like to grow my own, and forage for food. Salad leaves grow fairly quickly, so they should be good to help me get much better at the rhythm required for successional planting, which I am not great at. And I hope that it will help me to be more creative when it comes to salad. We eat a fair amount of salads, but they tend to be very samey, so I hope this will force me to think of more diverse things to go in them, and more creative dressings.

Raddiccio & Leaf Chicory

Hidden Gems, not Little

I currently have some rocket, mizuna, endive, perpetual spinach, fennel, beetroots, flat leaf parsley, and some carrots in the garden, all of which can be used as salad leaves, so I have time before my other seeds grow.There should be loads of things already starting in the wild that I can pick, but I won’t get foraging for a couple of weeks. We were also clearing an unloved part of the garden at the weekend, and we found some bonus lettuce in a planter that had seeded itself – a radicchio and I think the green one is a leaf chicory.

I only heard about the challenge when I got back from Australia, so this will have to be a 50 week challenge for me. I may not post about this every week, although I will tweet my pictures weekly. I guess it depends how excited I am about my salad in any given week!

Egg Mayo & Rocket

Salad as Comfort Food

Last week was my first. I was fresh back from Australia, and away from all the lovely fresh, summer produce I cooked with there. I didn’t want a salad in the traditional sense, I think it would have disappointed. Instead, I found myself craving the comfort of an egg sandwich. Nothing goes better with egg mayonnaise than some sharp, peppery rocket. I found that I couldn’t shake the idea long enough to find any other kind of salad inspiration, so that was what I had.

This week should have been altogether more exciting. I had an aubergine that needed to be used up, and I had decided to use that bonus radicchio, although it will be sad not to have it sitting resplendent and red in the brown winter garden.

I made Divalicous’ Aubergine, Tomato and Sumac Salad. I am trying to cook with more spicy food, and I found this one last summer. Do give it a go – sumac can be found in many local stores these days. I left out the tomato this time, because I have no interest in the kind of watery tasteless ones that you can get at this time of year. Instead, I used more flat leaf parsley, added some carrot leaves and upped the amount of dressing. I also served it hot.

I had intended to quarter the radicchio, and put it onto the griddle pan after the aubergine had cooked. I wanted it to char, along with some red pepper, and serve it with a lemon and parmesan vinaigrette. The charring softens the radicchio’s sharp quality, and gives it a nutty flavour. If you try it, be really careful, they will burn in seconds, once they start to char. Slightly blackened edges is what you should aim for, but no more. I would have stirred through some quinoa for bulk.

However, while my back was turned, as I put the first batch of aubergine on, the Big Guy came along, and separated the leaves of the radicchio, making it too flimsy to try to char. So a rethink was required. Inspired  by Divalicious’ mention of fattoush on her salad post,  I decided to make a kind of fattoush sandwich in pita, with the radicchio and aubergine salad on top. It wasn’t as substantial as the other way would have been, but it was really tasty nonetheless.

Aubergine & sumac Salad on Raddiccio

Salad as Improv

Something else that I have found this week is Foodcycle, who collect surplus food, and cook it in a café where you can pay what you can afford. Inspiring stuff, doing things that are close to my heart. I think their project rocks, and they are trying to crowdfund to enable them to keep running. They only need £5k to run for a year, which is a ridiculously small amount for all that they achieve. They have 4 days left to hit this target. If you can, please go along and pledge a little, you won’t have to pay if they don’t hit target, but every little helps, as they say.

Unfortunately, the crowd funding scheme is currently only set up for people in the UK, so if you are outside of that jurisdiction, then you can make a direct donation through their money giving site. I know they are very grateful for all donations as well. Or try and find a local scheme that you can help out. If you do, I’d love to hear about it.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Signs of Life and an Unexpected Salad

  1. Liz

    I love the idea of salad as comfort food. For me potato salad is very much a comfort food and when it gets hot things like tomato salad are – I guess because they remind me of my youth.

  2. Good luck with the salad challenge 🙂 Must be a bit of a shock readjusting from cooking with no doubt the most fresh and summery of ingredients to what is available now back home. Have not seen sumacs yet in these northern reaches but will be on the look out.

  3. Carrot leaves! I have carrots in the garden, but did not think of adding the leaves to the salad! I thouhgt they belonged in the compost pile.
    Isn’t it strange how sometimes you overlook something that’s right under your nose!
    Lea

    • Hello Lea, thanks for popping by. I like to try and get as much use as all of my veg as possible, so often try to use the leaves of root veg. Carrot leaves are lovely, and you can cook with them too – more as a pot herb than a vegetable. They are also really good in a tabouleh. I hope that you enjoy yours

  4. VP

    Fantastic ideas Mel and I look forward to hearing more about your Oz inspired salads later in the year.

    Thanks for joining in with the challenge 🙂

  5. That aubergine salad sounds great and I’m with with you, tomatoes out of season are tasteless. I’m hoping to grow my own veg in the coming months and am really excited to get started. I might have to bother you for some tips on salad growing.

    • The aubergine salad is lovely. I take it to barbecues too, and it always goes quickly.

      I am delighted to encourage another gardener. Please feel free to ask whenever you need help, though luckily, things like lettuces and tomatoes are amongst the easiest to grow, so I’m sure you won’t need that much help. You could get a few chillis and tomatoes started on a windowsill this month, if you want an early crop. I use plastic bags over the top to create mini greenhouses to give them a kick start.

      I can’t wait to see your photos 🙂

  6. Glen

    Hi,

    How do you propagate your garlic? Do you just put the bulb in the ground, or is their some preparation that goes into – waiting for it to sprout or something?

    Salads sound good!

    • Hi Glen, thanks for dropping by!

      Growing garlic is pretty easy. I prep the ground a few weeks before by diggining in a little bit of worm cast from my wormery (not that much, certainly less than you need for tomatoes). Then just push the garlic in, one clove at a time, to a depth of about 3-4 cm. As long as you plant the pointy end of the clove upwards, and leave at least 10 cm between each plant, that is pretty much it. Water them if the conditions are really dry, then harvest them after the leaves have started to die back. In the Northern Hemisphere, planting is usually November, and harvesting June or July. You’ll need the opposite months, I guess.

      Try to use the fattest cloves, as these will make the fattest bulbs of garlic. Some supermarket garlic are sprayed with stuff to prevent them from sprouting, so they won’t make good bulbs, but I don’t need to tell you to go organic do I :). Let me know how you get on.

      • Awesome, thanks Mel.

        I’ve got me some lovely organic “giant” garlic – the cloves are huge. By your months, I guess I’ll plant at the start of winter here, and harvest mid summer?

        Thanks for the advice.

      • Yes, that’s right Glen. Giant garlic sounds great, Ilook forward to seeing the results.

        Good Luck

  7. Pingback: A Closer Look at Microgreens | Gardening Tips

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