I just had a delicious salad for lunch, and except for the olive oil and lemon dressing, it was all fresh from my garden. My salad included baby Chinese cabbage, baby collard greens, red amaranth, baby Swiss chard, some dark red oak leaf kind of lettuce that is tender like Boston, and some purslane.
The Chinese cabbage and red lettuce I bought as plants, and they’re really beginning to take off. In fact, I’m wondering how I can eat that much Chinese cabbage, as it seems to grow faster than I can eat it. I use the small leaves in salad and boil or stir fry the larger leaves.
The Swiss chard I planted as seeds. I don’t really like mature Swiss chard, but it always grows well and it’s good when it’s tiny. The collards I planted about three years ago, and they keep coming up on their own, scattered throughout the garden. Collards will survive a strong frost, so they’re nice to have in the fall. The amaranth I last planted about six years ago, and like the collards, it keeps reseeding itself.
The purslane grows like a weed, with no effort from me. In fact, some people think it is a weed and pull it up and throw it away when they see it. But the East Indians plant it as a vegetable, and I’ve read that it was one of Gandhi’s favorites. It’s succulent and is said to be full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, one of the few plants that can make that claim. I eat it in salad or cook it as a vegetable.
Another weed that I love is goosefoot, also known as pigweed or lamb’s quarters. It comes up everywhere with no effort from me, and I actually prefer it to spinach. It’s probably more nutritious too. It tends to grow where the soil has been disturbed; the Mohawks call it “loves the village.”
My arugula didn’t come up. Maybe that’s because I was using 3-year-old seeds. So I replanted it and hope to see something sprouting soon.
There’s nothing like the taste of a salad when the greens were picked just a few minutes ago. Nothing is wilted. No worry about washing the pesticides off, as I don’t use any pesticides. Unless I’m picking right down to the dirt I might not even bother to wash it at all.
With your own garden, you can plant unusual vegetables that you’ll never find in the grocery store. I’ve grown fenugreek, cilantro, epazote, mitsuba, safflower, sage, salad burnet, sesame, shiso, Chinese wolfberry, and lettuce varieties I’d never heard of before. I tried growing some ginseng, but it never came up.
If there’s any way you can have a small garden yourself, I urge you to do so. Obviously, if you live in a city apartment or a high-rise condo, you might have difficulty finding room for a plot. Sometimes in such a situation there are community garden spaces nearby.
But if you have some kind of a yard, you should know that you really don’t need a lot of land for a garden. I’m not talking about growing an acre of corn or even 35 tomato plants here.
In just a 3-foot by 3-foot garden, you could grow a little lettuce or some other kind of greens. If your soil is poor, you could build a small raised bed and fill it with good soil and fertilizer.