In the Garden:
Mizuna is a fast-growing spring green that can be eaten young or allowed to form loose heads.
It's Easy Being Greens
This time of year I get hungry for greens. I try to eat seasonally as much as possible (except for those mangoes in winter), and spring means greens in our household. With all the snow this winter, it promises to be a slow, wet spring. That's why I like growing rugged greens that have more flavor than lettuce and can take the adverse weather and cool soil conditions.
Fast, Flavorful Greens
One source of flavorful greens may be your lawn. I love dandelion greens, and when picked young, their flavor is mild. Just be sure the lawn hasn't been treated with chemical fertilizers or herbicides.
Top on my list of cultivated greens has to be arugula. It germinates and grows well in cool soils and matures within a month of sowing. The dark green leaves have a slightly bitter yet nutty flavor when picked young. If you like a stronger flavor, let the plants get older and form a flower stalk. Then you'll have a green with a bite.
Another easy-to-grow green is mizuna. This Asian vegetable features attractive serrated leaves on a fast-growing plant. You can harvest young, flavorful leaves or let the plant form a loose head whose inner leaves will be slightly blanched and more tender.
For a real bite try mustard greens. These greens form bigger leaves than arugula or mizuna and have a stronger flavor. They taste great in a mixed salad with lettuce and spinach.
Speaking of spinach, it's the ultimate spring plant. I like the savoy-leaved varieties such as 'Tyee'. Spinach grows quickly in well-drained cool soil, and the savoyed (crinkled) leaves are great at holding dressing in their leaves in a salad.
Mixed Up with Mesclun
If you can't decide which green to grow, try a sampling of greens by growing mesclun. Mesclun features many different types of greens, including lettuces, all in one packet. Some mixes are heavier on the spicey greens, and some favor the milder-flavored greens, so you can select a mix to suit your taste buds.
As soon as the soil can be worked in the garden, make a raised bed, amend the soil with compost, and sprinkle a small patch with seeds. To get an even faster jump, plant the first batch in your cold frame. In the garden I like sowing a 2- by 3-foot patch of greens every few weeks so the supply will continue until the weather gets too warm and they bolt. Don't worry about how thick you sow seeds because you can thin and eat as the plants emerge. Keep them well watered and fertilized with fish emulsion every few weeks, and you'll be in the green this spring.
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