Perennializing Salad

At this time of year the battle with grass is ever waging in our garden beds.  Looking around for images to capture I found myself much more satisfied with close up shots than panoramic images of weedy garden beds.  Why not focus on “weeds” that we appreciate and love, and even some that we have nurtured.

There are many wild perennials and self seeding annuals that fill the early spring niche of salad and cooking greens.  As we are pulling dandelions, lambs quarter, and purslane out of the garden we sometimes save some to add to salads.  This year we roasted a lot of dandelion root for tea.  The beauty of these plants is that they generally took no human effort to grow, they are more nutritious than the plants we do grow, and they are earlier than anything we seed into the garden.  We haven’t found anything useful to do with grass though, except let other animals graze it.

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Another category of early greens are patches that we have intentionally or unintentionally allowed to grow to maturity, drop their seeds, and naturalize.  This gets a little complicated in annual garden beds.  It works better in perennial gardens or along perennial crop rows such as asparagus.  We’ve let chervil, several varieties of chicory, lettuce, amaranth, arugula, dill, parsley and orach seed into some pathways and around perennial fruits.  You have to be willing to accept a little disorder in the garden, but are rewarded with a variety of salad additions that act as ground cover with very little work.  If things get out of hand you can weed them or cover with mulch to thin the population.  At this point these little patches are too small and irregular to be a big part of our commercial production, but they add variety and flavor to our mixes and home salads.  Maybe we will be more intentional with it in the future and maintain whole areas of “perennialized” salads.

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