Lettuce, Spinach and other Salad Greens

If we have any produce that we “specialize” in, it is probably baby greens for salads, and lettuces in particular.  We don’t grow the kinds of tasteless water in a green fibrous package you’ll find in the grocery store, selected for long shelf life and easy shipping.  Instead, we choose varieties known for their flavor, and harvest them as close to delivery time as possible – and we won’t sell salad greens that are past 12 hours of harvest.  Thus, you get all of the flavor, all of the nutrition, and their life span in your crisper drawer will still be longer than anything you get at the supermarket!

If you have been lead to believe that lettuces all taste alike, that greens are just variants of lettuce, and they’re all pretty much just boring filler for what you’d rather eat (or something to hold dressing), we encourage you to visit our booth at the farmers’ market, and try something fresh, unique, and raised for flavor.  Your salads will never be the same!

We’re always trying new greens, and some are only available at the market one or two weeks.  Thus, this page will never be up to date.  Instead, this is a representative sampler of our main varieties that we grow regularly.

Lettuce

Icon of Slow Food USAAmish Deer Tongue

A mid-nineteenth century heirloom lettuce that continues to taste yummy as the days begin to get hotter.  Green, thickish pointy leaves with a thin midrib provide a good texture as the bulk of a salad, plus provide a nice sharp flavor.

Australian Yellow

A new variety for us to try this year, hoping to offer some less-common color options to the salad bowl.  Reputedly glossy yellow at first, maturing to green-yellow, crinkly, with a sweet flavor tinged with a hint of bitter.

Black Seeded Simpson

The most popular looseleaf lettuce, particularly early in the season.  An English heirloom with big, juicy, crumply light green leaves with ruffled edges.

Bronze Arrowhead

A new one for us in 2012, which we’re going to keep as a mainstay of our lettuce selections!  Beautiful bronze and green leaves that are tender and tasty.  Produced well in all but the hottest parts of mid summer last year, so it should be available most weeks at the market and in CSA shares.

Flame

A rare variety, bright crimson (hence the name), slow to bolt, so a red lettuce we can have available later in the summer.

Flashy Green Butteroak

Gorgeous cross of Emerald Oak and Flashy Trout Back lettuces, yielding lime-green leaves with dark speckles – a stunningly beautiful lettuce!  But that beauty isn’t just for the eyes – very tasty, crunchy with a buttery texture.

Grandpa Admire’s

Mild-flavored, slow bolting lettuce that remains sweet even as it gets hot.  But a good looker, too – bronze tinged green leaves, tending on the larger side.

Green Oakleaf

a green lettuce with oakleaf shaped leaves.  I guess not a lot of creative thought went into the name.  A late 19th century heirloom that maintains good quality even in the heat of the summer.  Never gets bitter!

Mascara

Curly, frilled oakleaf lettuce that’s dark red, with mild flavor even in hot weather.  One of the most beautiful lettuces we grow.

Red Sails

Very attractive purple-red splashed leaves on a slow-bolting, slow-to-turn-bitter, fairly heat-tollerant lettuce.  Crunchy texture that melts in your mouth, but be careful as you wash it – the midribs are brittle and can break easily before finding their way to your fork.

Red Salad Bowl

New to us in 2012.  We selected it as a late summer red lettuce, as it is supposed to be quite heat tolerant and slow to bolt.  Alas, we got poor germination, and fairly bitter leaves on a lettuce that bolted early.  Checking a different catalog, it describes it as very good in the cool season, with a buttery flavor, but bad in heat.  We’ll try it again with an earlier planting time.

Icon of Slow Food USASpeckled

A mid-17th century Dutch heirloom, which we first grew in 2011.  Thick, juicy leaves are green with red speckles.  Hence the name, which comes from the German “Forellenschluss,” “speckled like a trout.”  Mild flavored and very popular at the market, we’re going to try keeping it going for a slightly longer portion of the season this year.

Spinach

Bloomsdale

Our favorite spinach.  An heirloom crinkle-leafed spinach that sets the standards others are compared to.  Alas, it’s finicky to grow, a bit better in the fall if we can get it to germinate soon enough (often, the soil is too warm for germination until it’s too late to get a fall spinach).  Not as productive or reliable as the hybrids, but better tasting.

Space

A fairly recent (1957 – that’s recent compared to all the heirloom stuff we grow!) hybrid spinach with big, thick, wavy leaves with outstanding flavor.  It grows a bit slower than the others, but holds into the heat a bit better as well, so allows us to offer spinach a little later in the growing season.

Tyee

A crinkle-leafed savoy spinach that grows fairly rapidly, and handles the often abrupt change from spring to summer well.  Though perhaps not quite as tasty as Bloomsdale, it helps assure a spinach crop in years we otherwise wouldn’t have any spinach at all.

Other Greens

Arugula

Also known as Rocket or Roquette, arugula is commonly included in spring mesclun mixes (we typically don’t mix our greens, letting customers make their own mix). Most folks either love or hate it’s bitter, musky flavor and strong nutty scent.  Much less bitter in the spring and fall, more assertive in the summer.  Often mixed with spinach in salads, where its sharpness provides a nice counterpoint to spinach’s sweetness.  Also goes well with ricotta cheese!

Bright Lights Chard

A very colorful chard, with stems and veins in a mix of gold, yellow, orange, pink, and pastels contrasting the deep green leaves. A fairly mild flavored chard, loved by both chard lovers and those who don’t normally go for the stronger flavored greens.  Great both as a mixed salad ingredient when at the baby stage and as full grown chard.

Bull’s Blood Beet Greens

An heirloom developed in the mid 19th century from an even earlier French variety.  We’ve been laughed at for calling these “beet reds.”   This variety of beet is known for beautiful red-purple leaves, much more than its rather uggly, flattened beet root.  Sweet, without the bitter oxalic acid aftertaste of many beet greens.

Claytonia

The weed green that kept the ’49ers from starvation during the California gold rush.  Mild flavored, succulent heart-shaped leaves high in calcium and vitamin C.

Early Mizuna

Something we tried on a whim in 2011 that became a runaway hit, especially during the horrible drought of 2012 when few other greens were available at the market.  A Japaneese heirloom mustard green with very deeply cut frilly leaves on tender stalks.  Provides a pleasant mustard green taste yet with none of the bitterness mustard greens are known for.

Wilts quickly in the heat, but will perk back up quickly when you wash it, or if you dunk it in cold water for a few minutes.  In addition to using in salads, we like to keep the stems long and use them on open-face sandwhiches of rustic bread, neufchatel cheese, and thin-sliced radishes.

Mache – Large-Leaf Round

Also known as corn salad, lamb’s lettuce, and fetticus.  Mache is the star of the winter salad garden.  It grows very slowly, but as long as you can shovel the snow off of it without mangling, you can harvest it all winter.

Not ready until late October in the fall, then usually bolts well before the market starts in spring, so it’s mostly a treat reserved for our fall or spring bookend CSA members.  As we expand into providing winter veggies in the future, we are sure to grow more mache.

Though Mache was gathered from the wild for centuries before, Large-Leaf Round was selected and domesticated in the 1840′s.  It is our primary spring variety of mache.

Mache – Verte de Cambrai

Verte de Cambrai is a smaller leaved mache that does very well for winter harvest.  Likely grown by Thomas Jefferson under its alias Candia.

Tatsoi

2012 was a tragically difficult gardening year, but it was also the one in which we discovered tatsoi – clearly a runaway success in our garden and market.  Deep, dark green succulent leaves, cupped a bit like a spoon.  Mild flavored, tasting like a combination of spinach and broccoli.  Outstanding in salads, and also excellent in stir fries and soups.

It seemed completely unfazed by 2012′s brutal heat and drought, as well as the early frost and cold that fall.  As best we can tell, it is completely immune to the vagaries of weather.  This year, we’re going to try to have enough succession plantings for harvest throughout the market season.