The popularity of pillow-packs of salad leaves in supermarkets has helped to fuel the popularity of grow-your-own salad crops.
The beauty of salad leaves is that they can be added to lettuce-based salads to really spice them up, adding more flavour and nutrient value. Alternatively, use a mix of leaves with different textures, shapes and colours.
There are now many collections sold in mixed seed packets so you get a range of different leaves which can be plucked as and when you need them for several weeks. Some may be hot and spicy while others are milder.
Komatsuna, green in the snow (perilla or shiso), rocket, lamb’s lettuce, mizuna, mibuna, leaf beet, mustard, endive, pak choi, red orach, salad burnet, senposai, spinach, American land cress, beetroot ‘Bulls Blood’, radish leaf, tatsoi.
This list is not exhaustive; there are more available and some of those mentioned can be left to grow to maturity, such as pak choi, to provide a much meatier crop, but if the seedling leaves are harvested, they are ideal for tossing into a salad.
Sow salad leaves in short rows or in pots. Simply sprinkle the seed fairly close together in the row. There is often no need to thin out the crop unless you did sow too thickly. If you do have to thin out the row just use the thinnings in a salad.
Keep the crop well watered and as soon as the leaves are 7.5-10cm (3- 4in) high you can start picking off a few leaves. Try not to take out the main growing tip but remove the young leaves on either side of this. That way the plant will keep growing.
Salad leaves are quick growing but this also means they are quick to ‘go over’ and get too large and coarse or too strong in flavour. Rocket is also prone to going to flower and seed very quickly, although you can eat the flowers and seed if you like a very hot peppery flavour.
To have a continuous harvest of the youngest leaves, you need to successionally sow. This means sowing a short row or a pot full of salad leaves every fortnight.