November 30, 2012

Salad mix of the week

 I wanted to focus on spinach this week due to the evil spores that are slowly killing all of the spinach I have growing.  This weeks salad mix features spinach with two other dark green leaves: komatsuna and vitamin green.  I've already written about both of these greens, so they should sound familier.

I used baby sized vitamin green in these pictures.  Since taking them I've found 'grown up' sized leaves are better because of the stems.  This salad mix has no spice and would really benefit from exciting, colorful toppings like feta cheese, radishes, pomegranate seeds or all three.  (Last week I bought some feta and my salad eating life has changed!  Also, calling it a 'topping' sounds like I'm making an ice cream sundae.  Dried cherries in salad wouldn't be such a bad idea. . . )

Right now there are spinach seedlings that are not yet showing signs of downy mildew.  I know it is only a matter of time before they will, but until then I'm holding on to them.

November 28, 2012

Tragedy in the greenhouse

My favorite green of all time is spinach.  And I have had no problems growing greens - until now.  It figures spinach would be the green to succumb to a pretty gross fungus. 

A few weeks ago I saw a leaf that looked like this.  Pretty gross huh?  It's downy mildew, or Peronospora farinosa, and is one of the biggest diseases that spinach has.  It spreads by spores so it travels fast.  How fast you ask?  When I came back after the weekend it was everywhere:

Gross!!!!  What you're seeing are the spores of the fungus and yellowing leaves that are a result of it.  I haven't had time to do proper research yet, but here are a few facts:
  1. If you've been eating the greens I grow don't worry!  I haven't been putting any spinach in for a while.  I'm pretty sure you'd be ok if you ate some downy mildew - but I'm not sure.  You should wash your greens anyways.
  2. This species of downy mildew is specific to spinach.  There are other species of downy mildew that attack lettuce but I forget the name right now.  Because of this I can leave the spinach in the greenhouse and watch it slowly die.  It's sad, the upcoming spinach crops were some of the best.
  3. Downy mildew likes moist, cool environments.  It's pretty happy in the greenhouses.   

November 26, 2012

fun jen or tokyo bekana?

I'm growing a number of copy cat greens this fall.  These two greens definitely fall into this category.  I wouldn't be able to tell them apart unless they were labeled. 

Tokyo bekana (on the left of the top picture) might have slightly bigger leaves.  Since everything is grown densely in containers I can't really say this for sure.  

Fun jen leaves might be slightly more ruffled.  Again, I can't really say for sure.  Either way, they are both really good, fast growing, crunchy, mild flavored greens.  I would grow either in my theoretic garden, but probably not both.  

November 23, 2012

viridescent vitamin green

Many weeks ago I took the baby vitamin green plants, which I posted about here, and transplanted them out of their small cells and into a big tray of compost.  I want to grow some greens and see what all the fuss was about.  Recently, I commented on how I preferred komatsuna as a baby green compared to vitamin green.  That's still true, but I am getting on board the vitamin green boat too.

Vitamin green

Why? Mainly because of the stems.  Usually stems are considered Undesirable in salad.  They stick out in unpleasant ways, making it hard to get bites into your mouth and then have they have the audacity to poke you.  Vitamin greens stems are totally different.  They are thick, crunchy and contain so much water that I would even call them juicy.  I frequently graze while I'm working, and they are now my favorite snack. 
Vitamin green
The fun part is definitely the stem, but the leaves are great too.  They are tender and in their old age seem to have lost the brassica, mustard-y flavor that I tasted in the baby leaves.  I've read people call vitamin greens 'bitter' but haven't found that at all - yet.  Perhaps if they are grown outside they could become bitter.  I brought the bunch of greens above home with the thought  of eating some raw and some stir fried, but I never made it past the salad.  The leaves disappeared into my usual mix of lettuce, spinach and mizuna, and the stems added perfect crunchiness.

Have you used vitamin green before? Did you cook it? Was it bitter? Tender?

November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving salad mix of the week

No one wants to eat salad on Thanksgiving.  Or so I heard on a radio program a few days ago.  I totally understand that there are already plenty of foods to eat during Thanksgiving dinner.  And, if you're a purist, the pilgrims and indians probably did not have salad at their dinner (but I'm sure they didn't have marshmallows on their sweet potatoes either).  There are still plenty of opportunities for salad eating in the next few days.  Namely, the snack before Thanksgiving when you're hungry, but want to save your appetite for the Main Event, or the day after Thanksgiving when you're feeling guilty for eating those marshmallowed sweet potatoes and calling them a vegetable.
This weeks salad mix is full of such pretty greens.  My mom says the best thing about beet greens is that they taste like beets.  I think their color is the best part (maybe you've noticed by the number of pictures I've taken hereherehere and here).  Swiss chard is almost as beautiful, if not quite as photogenic.  Vitamin green adds volume to the salad, without adding distracting flavor or color and tatsoi leaves are perfect, small circles.

November 19, 2012

vitamin green or vitaminna?

Vitamin green is the number one thing people are searching for when they find this blog.  When I found another green that had 'vitamin' it's in name I knew I had to try it out.  Can a tell a difference?  Nope.  Do I really know if they are the same variety? Not at all.

Perhaps vitamin green leaves are rounder than vitaminna.  
They both are mild tasting brassicas that I would use interchangeably.     

November 16, 2012

Photo friday

This spinach leaf seemed to be waving as I took pictures yesterday.  The later planted greens are just beautiful with wide leaves, and good germination.  These ones here were planted October 15th.  The photos below show their growth from seedling to baby green size.

November 15, 2012

Salad mix of the week

The hurricane blew away all the remaining fall leaves, and now it looks like winter in New England.  Namely, there are bare, brown trees, empty fields and bleak skies, which, secretly I like as long as I can spend lots of time reading books.  
This salad mix isn't really that summery since it has kale and spinach in it, but the muted colors made me think of late August.  I don't really think of lettuce as very hardy winter green either, more of a fair-weather-only kind of green.

November 13, 2012

Red violet pak choi

Red violet pak choi is one of my favorite 'greens' this fall.  
I keep trying to take pictures of it, but it just doesn't seem to be very photogenic.

It's a hybrid in the B. rapa narinosa group of the brassica family.  It's cold tolerant and a vigorous producer.  It has spoon shaped leaves that can get pretty big (as big as my hand for example).  Leaves are always mild flavored, and tender, at least when grown in a greenhouse like I am.  

 There is great variety in leaf color from green with reddish viens, to red to deep purple.  I'm not sure if temperature or location has anything to do with this.  The seeds came from Kitazawa and their picture shows very dark purple plants grown outside.

November 7, 2012

Salad of the week

  Red violet pac choi is my favorite of the many pac choi's I'm growing.  The round, red-veined leaves are just so pretty!  I haven't been able to take a photo of it that really does it justice yet.

This salad mix has another red-veined green in it.  So far, the red russian kale I'm growing hasn't gotten very red.  Maybe because it hasn't been very cold?  I'm growing some in my garden (because I really need more greens in my life) and it is plenty red.

Arugula adds some zing to the salad and komastuna is just crunchy and kind of sweet.  I would put pears and pomegranate seeds in too, but I would put them in every salad so there isn't anything really special about the combination of this salad mix and those fruits.

November 6, 2012


Occasionally I get asked if I could grow other crops besides salad greens.  Of course other fruits and vegetables can be grown in greenhouses, but most of them require things that I can't provide.  Like extra lights, actual warm temperatures (the 40 degree greenhouse is pretty cold!) and way more space.  Most crops grown for their flowers (broccoli), roots (carrots, beets) or fruits (tomatoes, cucumbers, squash) all need more soil and space to grown than mere salad greens.  So, it would be better to grow them in the ground, or in giant buckets on the ground, than on top of greenhouse benches.

Radishes are the one crop I've thought of, and tried growing like salad greens.  They are in the brassica family (as most wintergreens seem to be) and are crunchy but not yet spicy.  The spice will come with age.  I think they are a variety called 'crunchy royale' and they only took a month to get this big.  The leaves are edible, but are a bit prickly so I prefer not to eat them raw.  

November 5, 2012

Don't forget!

For all the American's, don't forget to:

A public service announcement from a salad dork.

November 2, 2012


I thought vitamin green would be the favorite green this fall since everyone in the internet world is so enthusiastic about it.  But then I tried komatsuna.  How can there be a difference between one dark green brassica with oblong leaves and another you ask?  Probably not much. But komatsuna doesn't have much mustard-y taste the way vitamin green does.  In fact, it's almost sweet!