Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Salad Days!

The very last step in putting dinner on the table involves stepping outside the kitchen door, walking about five steps across the deck and then harvesting a salad for the meal.
I find having romaine, red sails, butter leaf and other leaf lettuce growing in a barrel to be the easiest way to manage lettuce growing. 
Slugs and snails don't bother the lettuce that way; I don't need to bend down far to snap off a few leaves, and the potting soil growth medium doesn't seem to get on the leaves as much as garden bed soil.
Usually I just pluck a handful of leaves and shake off the rain drops just before serving.

Plus the lettuce is just pretty and I enjoy having them where I can enjoy them on our deck.

Next to the lettuce in another barrel: Cilantro, which is probably my favorite herb.  I nibble it like celery!
(And did you know that Cilantro added to a traditional lime based Margarita makes for a really delicious drink?  Try it in either a regular or virgin Margarita and see what you think!)

In the same planter: Basil.
Never can have too much basil IMHO.
We love to slice a warm garden grown tomato, add a slice of mozzarella cheese, basil and a drizzle of olive oil to nibble on for a summer's evening no-cooking treat.
It also changes up a adds a very interesting flavor.
I also have a rosemary bush near by; I am not a fan of Rosemary in salads but a spear of Rosemary adds a great twist to lots of drinks too.  Gin and tonic sippers love the woodsy flavor added to the drink.  I have heard lemon verbena is another G&T enhancer if you have some.)

Golden oregano...I tend to plant several kinds of oregano and basil's over the summer.
The Golden variety adds a bit more zesty color to the barrel herb garden.

Down the deck stairs: a rambunctious patch of spearmint.
How could I manage summer without mint for my ice teas, lemonade and mojitos (virgin or otherwise)?
Or for garnishing melons, oranges, pineapple grapefruit etc etc in a fruit salad?
Still want to acquire chocolate mint again.  It blows my mind that mint can have a distinctive chocolate taste.

Lavender is the alternative herb for putting extra zing in a salad.
Also great for adding to an Arnold Palmer (half ice tea, half lemonaid) or any lemon based drinks.  Lemon-lavender sherbet: Yum!

Thyme got set loose in the lower garden area where it can spread out, be stepped on, and scent the air with any crushing.
It comes back every year...and each year I find yet another variety to try in the garden.
Just a flick of fresh thyme leaves into a salad pairs it well with chicken dishes.

Colorful carrots are still at first leaf stage in the vegetable garden proper.  I've planted the small ball shaped carrots which grow faster and sweeter here.
And this morning I planted radishes right next to the carrots.  I bought the seed package that has a multi color seed mix-pink, red, white, red with white tip, burgundy.  I like being surprised when I pull up a radish or two. 
Last year I spilled a package of radish seeds near our walk way.  Radishes sprouted in the most unlikely places, and I found that it was easier to just pull them up in sprout phase and enjoyed tossing those into the salad too.

The tomatoes are struggling.  They got frost bit one night, and now all the rain is getting them down. 
It might be a long time before we enjoy garden grown tomatoes this year.  :-(

Sugar snap peas are growing on the chain link fence.  I *try* to add them to salads; the truth is I tend to eat them as soon as I see them all by myself.

The chives have come back and are already in bloom.  The pretty purple flowers add beauty and flavor to a salad, plus every time I make a baked potato I know I have chives to go with the sour cream.

I grow several kinds of poppies...poppy seeds shaken into a salad add a nice crunch.  The Icelandic poppy seeds are pretty small, but I wanted to show the shape of their leaves....

Verses the California poppy leaves.
Can't imagine how anyone could mix those two up.
The Oriental poppies and Shirley Poppies and Corn Poppies will be along in the garden later.

(I should add that I have johnny-jump-ups in barrel planters on the deck and those blossoms get added to salads too. Later in summer my nasturtium blossoms and their peppery round leaves get added into the salad bowl too.)

Just for fun: this year I am growing some rutabagas.  They can be shredded and added to a salad or sliced and used for dipping.
Next to the rutabaga is one of several leek plants that over wintered and are beginning to thicken up nicely.

Strawberries seem to be welcomed in vegetable salads now too.
Occasionally a strawberry makes it into one of my veggie salads; usually they get plucked and eaten each morning just as soon as they are ripe.

Can you guess what this is?
Come late summer this leaf will likely shade a grape cluster.
Grapes work as another salad add-in in both fruit and veggie salads, and in Spanish Garlic Soup too.
Some year I want to try cooking with the grape leaves, just so I can say I did.

Last evening I "planted" another salad mainstay, peanuts, out on our deck.
While I love the addition of peanuts in salads, I enjoy the antics of peanut stealing Blue Jays (er, I mean Western Scrub Jays actually...) even more.

I don't begrudge my feather friend his favorite food.
His antics make us laugh...and laughter is the perfect kind of seasoning needed for total salad enjoyment.
We've got plenty of other things to make up our home grown salad bar anyway, don't you think?


ellen b. said...

Yum! You are inspiring me to plant some herbs in pots...

Vicki said...

I was walking around your deck and yard with you as you wrote, envisioning the yummy green things sprouting here and there.

I like your salad in a planter idea. I had plans to start mine much earlier this year, but our crazy cold winter weather kept me from planting anything...and now it's too hot for any lettuce right now. Perhaps in the fall...

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

Sherman Gardens has a little herb garden on shelves, all at waist level and higher and visitors are invited to walk around it and smell and feel all the different varieties...they have all those you mention here and more. it was great fun to do that with my friend last week. I love all those scents and some of the leaves felt like velvet or even soft fur. I'm beginning to think all eating gardens should be waist much easier to care for too!

Vee said...

Makes me want to gather up some herbs. Currently, I'm running behind with just chives, rosemary, and lavender.

Vicki said...

I just noticed that Blogger doesn't put a date on the posts anymore. When did that stop?

Marg said...

OK..I could handle all your photos of the garden, in all your wonderful little planters and I was admiring them thinking I have similiar herbs, but you are way ahead of mine.
But when I saw the photo of the bird?
You won! That was fantastic.

Lovella ♥ said...

I am wondering why my comments are not showing up. ..what is the deal?
Anyways. .your garden is beautiful. .I love that you can shake off the lettuce and eat it. Imagine how fresh and full of vitamins that salad is.

Kathy said...

Your garden is looking really nice! I like your barrels with the lettuce....and that pretty!

Lovella ♥ said...

just checking to make sure my comment stuck this time. I couldn't leave a comment on Kathy's post today either. . hmmm.