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Produce Profile: Grow Salad Mix For Healthy Greens

Tender salad mix is the darling of salad eaters and restauranteurs everywhere, and it’s easy to grow your own.

by Lisa MunniksmaFebruary 28, 2020

Fresh food year-round is a delight that will never get old. Salad mix tops the list of veggies that can be grown, indoors or outdoors, all the time.

Salad mix itself isn’t a veggie, of course. But it’s easier to tell your friends you’re growing salad mix than it is to explain you’re growing mizuna-romaine-deer tongue-mustard-red leaf mix.

Varieties of Salad Mix

Growing salad mix is a choose-your-own-adventure operation. You can find seed mixes already blended, or you can grow a little bit of this and a little bit of that to blend your own after harvest.

In choosing my own mix, some of my favorite salad mix greens include:

  • Arugula: When is this spicy green not on a favorites list of mine? Arugula adds a bit of bite when mixed with mild greens.
  • Curly Red-Leaf Lettuce: Eaten on its own, red leaf isn’t my favorite. But in a mix it provides a beautiful pop of color and mild flavor.
  • Romaine: This crisper-leafed lettuce adds a different texture to the typically more tender baby leaf lettuces in salad mix.
  • Sorrel: Added sparingly, sorrel’s lemony tang adds a pleasant and unexpected flavor.
  • Oakleaf Green Lettuce: These light-green leaves are tender and attractive.

The nice thing about having all of these choices is that you can customize your salad mix to your own taste. Add your favorite leafy herbs, edible flowers, braising greens and more.

How to Grow Greens

There are hundreds of varieties of potential salad mix greens. Choose varieties that are well suited to your growing situation and that have similar maturity dates. You don’t want a red leaf lettuce that’s ready in 30 days if you have to wait 45 days for your tatsoi.

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It’s most challenging to grow greens in the summertime because they’re prone to bolt in the heat, and they don’t want too-warm soil when germinating. Choose the right varieties and a shadier part of the garden (or patio, for container gardening) for warm-weather crops.

In winter, many greens can survive in temperatures as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit; many lettuces colder than that. For northern wintertime salad mixes, consider growing in trays indoors, or use the appropriate row cover/low tunnel/high tunnel protection to grow outside.

Pay attention to whether the varieties you choose are cut-and-come-again. Most varieties will allow two cuttings before they’re finished (and the weeds take over).

Salad greens prefer to be densely planted, and they come and go quickly, so you can rotate their space into other crops within the season. The debris left behind is delicate, so it’s easy to incorporate into the soil or to interplant your next crop.

How to Harvest Salad Mix

Salad mixes are generally harvested as baby greens, 4 to 6 inches tall.

Harvesting is simple enough with scissors or a sharp serrated knife. Be careful to keep your cutting tool out of the soil, cutting about 1/2 inch above the soil line. If you’re growing greens in quantity, a mechanical greens harvester will pay for itself in less than a season.

Jazz up your salad mix with this recipe for barley and balsalmic-marinated strawberries.

How to Eat Salad Mix

I eat a salad a day, thanks to regular availability of fresh salad mix. Sometimes my salad is a side to soup or a sandwich. More often, my salad is a whole meal. Mind you, I’m an eater—we’re not talking about wispy salads of greens and little else. Salad mix is a canvas for seasonal creativity.

In the fall and winter, top your salad greens with hearty roasted veggies, like cubed sweet potatoes and butternut squash, plus chickpeas, pecans, and pea shoots.

In spring, shaved asparagus and carrots alongside snap peas and tuna are delicious. And in summer, salad options are bountiful and shouldn’t end with tomatoes and cucumbers—though those are obviously good. Try topping summer salads with grilled zucchini and chicken, corn cut from the cob, and sunflower seeds. These salads are hearty and filling, and they can be prepped ahead of time for busy-season meals.

Salad dressing can be as simple as fresh or dried herbs with a nice vinegar and olive or avocado oil.

Salad mix is a fast, versatile and rewarding crop to grow. If you’re looking for an in with local restaurants, it’s always in demand. And it can quickly become a part of your seasonal diet, year-round.

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