I think I love my kitchen garden more in the fall then in the spring: cooler temperatures are accompanied by a lot less bugs and the beds are brimming with salad greens (sorrel, lettuce, frisée, endive, mache, arugula), cooking greens (tatsoi, pakchoi and other mustard, kale, Swiss Chard), peas (the shoots of which are delicious in salad too – besides the pods), carrots, celeriac, beets (the tops of which are also edible) and some cabbages. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash & pumpkins have been harvested and stored. The last of the tomatoes were brought in to ripen and the peppers picked before the first frost will remain good for a few more weeks.
But what I really love in that time of the year when we often have a little spell of Indian Summer with sunny warm days and mild nights is to feast on big bowls of fresh mixed greens salad. Back in August I was urging you to go and plant your fall garden. Remember? I hope you did sow your fall garden seeds then and are now harvesting the leaves of that effort. I am.
The two pictures above explain my planting fervor back in the heat of summer: the first one was taken on September 12 after transplanting various seedlings that had been sown in August. The second one was on October 24. (Click on the picture for a larger – and cleaner- version.)
The result is lots of salad lunches!
I can’t say that there are really recipes to share here – more like ideas, really. No salad is ever the same. I pick and mix as I feel like it – and depending on what is growing well at the moment, sometimes adding a few herbs (cutting celery, parsley, tarragon, dill, melissa, anise hyssop etc) and other times a handful of pea shoots or immature pea pods, or very young kale, mustard or Swiss chard, or young leaves of beets (Bull’s Blood is particularly attractive). If the weather gets cooler (but not too cold), then I may have some radicchio – always a treat.
After washing & spinning the greens I must decide if I want a plain salad or a “garnished” one. If served with pasta or home-made pizza, the salad remains simple, just dressed with a little oil & vinegar. If however, the salad is the meal, then I will “garnish” it. With what I garnish depends on what’s on hand. At this time of the year two favorite combinations are:
– roasted sliced pears, dry cranberries and crumbled blue cheese (that’s the salad on the picture below ) with a handful of immature pea pods and a dressing made with 1 T maple syrup, 1 T balsamic vinegar, 1 T Dijon mustard, 3 T olive oil
– roasted sliced apples, toasted walnuts and grated cheddar with a dressing made with 1 T honey, 1 T apple cider vinegar, 1 T apple cider, 1 tsp Dijon mustard and 2 T grapeseed oil (or more if you’d like)
It is HARD to take a good photograph of a salad! Well, at least it’s hard for me. But tossing it together or eating it is not hard: Mix some dressing in a big bowl; add your greens; add your fruit, cheese, nuts etc if using. Toss. Cut some crusty home made bread, pour yourself a glass of wine: fast food at its best!