Gourmet mesclun lettuce has ruined my taste for the traditional iceberg lettuce and romaine salads for life. Why should I go back to those bland tasting salads when I can have great mesclun or baby lettuce salads that are brimming with flavor and nutrition? Considering how easy it is to grow these little tasty morsels in a short period of time, I am not surprised on how fast they have become popular in the world of salad eaters.
It amazes me how much mesclun costs in the stores, but I eat them anyway. However, I have discovered how great they are fresh out of my own garden and how easy they are to grow. The process is so simple anyone can grow mesclun. It can be grown in containers, raised beds, and in a regular two foot square area of your garden. Mesclun just needs cool weather and lots of moisture to grow.
Mesclun can be planted in the early to late spring and late summer to early fall. They like to germinate in cooler weather and do not grow well in hot temperatures. Mesclun can consist of wild greens, many different kinds of lettuces, arugula, endives, mustards, parsleys, fennels, escarole, and are in all kinds green and red colors.
In a regular garden, clear out a two foot square area and make sure the soil is full of hummus and rich soil. Work in a 1-1-1 organic fertilizer into the soil a week ahead of time. Water the area thoroughly as the seeds need moisture to germinate. Scatter the seeds carefully in the area cleared and cover with a dusting of moist compost or nice rich moist soil. Keep moist, but not wet; you should water with a fine spray every day that there is not any rainfall.
You can scatter the seeds by hand in a raised bed or container also. It is better than keeping the mesclun confined to a square foot or two area. Your production will be higher. When using a container, you want the best soil on top as the roots do not grow deep. When the seedlings are a few inches high, thin so there is an inch of room between them. However, use the thinned out leaves in a nice fresh salad.
When you harvest the mesclun, it should be 5-8 inches tall and cut the leaves off an inch above the soil. This will keep the plant’s crown from being harmed and encourage new growth. You can get a few more re-growths if you fertilize and keep them moist. After cutting put the leaves directly into a bowl of cold water to clean them off. This will give you the opportunity to check for insects and damaged leaves.
When serving, use a light dressing as a heavy one will be overwhelming to the leaves. I have a favorite salad recipe using mesclun.
MESCLUN AND PEAR SALAD FOR TWO:
* Pick enough mesclun for two people
* Kirby cucumber sliced very thin
* Pear – slice very thin
* Fresh tomato cut into small pieces or a handful of grape tomatoes
* Half cup of black olives
* Half a cup of canned chick peas
* One half of an avocado sliced thin
* Bits of apple slices to add more flavor (optional)
* Shredded cooked and cold chicken (optional)
Mix all the ingredients together except for the avocados, pear, and chicken. Toss gently. Then mix a light balsamic vinegar dressing in and toss gently again. Spread the chicken on top if you are using it. Then arrange the avocado and pear slices in a decorative manner on top of the salad. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the fruit and you have a great tasting romantic salad for two.
Mesclun greens are seemingly a luxury that is beyond our reach most of the time, but in the spring and fall you can grow and enjoy your own succulent leaves.
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