May 29, 2013

Salad greens in the garden

About a month ago, when salad green production in the greenhouses was starting to slow down I had a bad thought:
"What I am going to eat when the salad runs out?"

I  took some of the flats of greenhouse greens that had been harvested, divided them up and stuck them in our outside garden.  You can see the swiss chard above is still planted very close together - not at all the recommended 4-6 inch spacing between plants.  I wasn't about to untangle all 150+ plants that were in the flat.  Since the plants are so densely packed we harvest leaves are still pretty small - about the size of my hand.     

I also squashed in a flat of red russian kale.  Given more space to grow its leaves are much broader than when grown in the greenhouse.  Hand-sized leaves mean it's still tender enough to eat in salads or on sandwiches.

Lastly, vitmin green.  Like red russian kale, vitamin green really spreads itself out when given more space.  The broad leaves are mild and tender.  Beetles seem to like eating them just as much as we do.  If I had been smart I would have covered the plants right away with some lightweight row cover.  Now it's too late.  Covering the plants would probably trap pests in.  I don't mind the holes since I'm not trying to sell these greens.  Other brassicas that beetles like include arugula, mustards and napa cabbage.  See here for more information on managing flea beetles in brassicas.

May 16, 2013

UNH Today! Wintergreens is in the news!

Since I have finished growing and measuring salad greens I've spent most of my time inside, on the computer, wading through all the data.  This is the not-so-pretty part of research.  The plants are long gone to the compost pile, and I have yet to figure out any super exciting results.

In the meantime, take a look at this article in UNH today which features the wintergreens field day back in March.  Pretty cool!

* An update a few hours later - the UNH Cooperative Extension website has the same story - with a bigger picture!

May 10, 2013

Organizing salad greens by yield

When looking at yield data collected this past spring, I found the salad greens I've grown could be roughly categorized into three groups: heavy, mid and light weight.  These distinctions could be useful when building a unique salad mix with some lessor known salad green varieties.

The highest yielding greens were the lettuces and loose headed cabbages.  These make a good basis for a salad mix because they are a) heavy and b) mild tasting.

Medium yield greens contain some of my favorite greens.  Ok, they are all my favorites and when mixed together they make a nice salad.  None of these have any spicy-ness, but they do offer good tastes and nice curvy leaves.  And beets and chard just so pretty.

Spicy mustards, arugula and kale make up the light weight category.  They are 'lofty' and add texture, color and interest to salad mixes.  Often, these are the greens that you don't want too much of in a salad anyway.  I've tried the mainly-mustard-greens salad and it was too much. The keyword there was 'tried.'  Other varieties of kale may produce a heavier yield, but the russian kales have rather spindly leaves when they are young.

What would you choose to put in your salad mix?

May 7, 2013

Bolted brassicas

Right now the greenhouse is filled with bolted, flowering brassicas.  Most brassicas have yellow flowers.  Arugula flowers are totally different in color - they are cream colored with red viens.  They do have the same number of flower petals and stamens.

Brassica florets are tasty when small, but once the stems elongate and the flowers open they are tough.  Last year I have enough tat soi flowers to eat in a stir fry. This year I let everything bolt.    Brassicas tend to bolt quickly in this greenhouse because there are so many plants in such a small area.

Varieties, clockwise from top left: wasabina, arugula, mizuna, tat soi, chinese pac choi, tokyo bekana.

May 1, 2013

What did I plant? Telling apart sprouted greens

Does this happen to you?  Do you plant things and forget what they are?  I certainly do! (See vates kale.) It's pretty easy to tell what family salad greens are in based on their cotyledons.  You might not be able to tell what variety is growing, but at least you'll be able to tell the lettuce  and spinach apart.

When lettuce sprouts it's small and cute - the bunny of the salad greens.  The cotyledons spread wide open on the soil surface.  Red varieties of lettuce will change color if it's warm and sunny. 

Spinach cotyledons are long and slender, forming a 'V' shape.  

All brassicas have heart shaped cotyledons.  This includes leafy greens and cole crops (cauliflower, cabbage etc).  The picture above shows tokyo bekana, kale and scarlet frills.  Cotyledon size varies between varieties, and so some brassicas make good microgreens.  Broccoli, although not a salad green, is a good example.

Members of the beta family, including swiss chard and beets, are also good microgreens because their stems are often bright colors.  I've taken a lot of photos of them because of this.  Their cotyledons are oblong with a slightly pointy tip.