Marcelle NankervisThe perpetual salad

I love fresh salad and lettuces, but no matter how many bags of ready to eat mixed leaves, crispy icebergs or cos lettuce hearts I buy, I inevitably end up eating some, while the rest to turn to slime in the crisper. I loathe wasting anything (even though slimy lettuce will still be passed on to one of our many scrap eating animals or the compost).

Pretty and tasty cut & come again lettuce

Too overcome this frustrating, vicious circle I have taken the move towards perpetual lettuces. Two weeks ago I planted an entire garden bed with cut and come again lettuce. No more wasted leaves in the crisper for me, instead, I have a steady stream of fresh mixed salad leaves, regularly giving me plenty of fresh leaves, picking eat variety from the outside in.

This does however create another issue … how many ways can I feed salad to the family to keep up with my now abundant supply. We’ve already had lime and chilli squid on a Thai inspired salad, seared beef on fresh salad, lamb wraps with … um, salad? Still, I would rather have this issue than continuing to waste expensive store bought lettuce with no idea of its origin or age.

The lettuce bed

From one punnet of seedlings I have already fed my family and friends for well over a week. And how have the plants responded to all this picking? They have put on even more growth! Maybe it is the humid weather, maybe it is the mushroom compost enriched soil I put into my no dig vegie beds. Whatever the reason, to go from tiny seedlings to abundance in two weeks, I couldn’t ask for more.

Actually I could. I forgot to plant rocket! A mixed leaf salad really needs this peppery green to bring it to life. No stress, I’ll plant a few seedlings this week and in another two weeks I will have improved my repertoire of salad recipes.

Quick-growing spinach leaves

My only other issue is my spinach. The leaves are huge! So now, within only weeks of planting, I am already finding it necessary to blanch and freeze some of the larger spinach leaves for those times when supply will be scarce. That way I know I’ll always have some on hand for later use in dips, cannelloni and spanakopita. Yum!

How do you freeze it? It’s pretty simple really. Just pick the leaves, remove the excess stems and wash.

Blanched spinach ready for freezing

To blanch, boil some water in a saucepan and have an ice bath on hand also. Put the leaves in the boiling water for about 15 seconds and then plunge them straight into the ice bath for about the same length of time. Squeeze to remove excess water, chop roughly and place in snap-lock freezer bags or sealed ice-cube trays (like you can use for homemade baby food). Date the bags so that you can use the oldest leaves first and stack neatly in the freezer.

That just about covers my lettuce supply and demand issues … although now I’m wondering if we need a bigger freezer!

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Marcelle Nankervis

About Marcelle Nankervis

Garden journalist, author of Plants for Australian Dry Gardens and Smart Gardening – grow your own fruit and vegetables, contributor to many garden magazines. Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

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