Epic Salad - Mid Spring
In this series, we offer seasonal salad suggestions to help you eat enough fruits and vegetables all year long.
Mid-spring salad ingredients harvested in the Las Vegas Valley
The gathering of ingredients for a mid-spring salad can start much like it did in early spring. Many of the steps outlined here can still be taken. If you want to harvest garden-variety leafy greens for your salad’s base, you might have to hurry! Leaf crops like lettuce and spinach are still available in some gardens, especially those that are shaded in the afternoon; but in many other gardens around the Valley, they are going to seed or have already been removed.
Fun tip: Gladiolus petals are in season now. They are edible (the petals only, not the entire flower) and taste like lettuce, so they can help fill out your salad if your lettuce plants are not producing as many leaves as before. NOTE: Gladiolus anthers are NOT edible and MUST be removed. Just eat the petals. Find safety tips for consuming edible flowers here, and be sure the plants have not been contaminated with pesticides. Be especially cautious about eating flowers if you suffer from allergies.
Sturdy leaves like chard and beet greens may be holding up better in the heat than delicate lettuce leaves, and they will make a good alternative bed for your salad. You don’t have to cook them -- just remove the ribs, chop the leaves into ribbons, and marinate them to soften them up. A marinade of olive oil, lemon juice and zest, diced garlic, and red pepper flakes works well.
If you are using beet greens in your salad, you might as well throw in some beets!
Other alternatives to a bed of lettuce include seasonal microgreens or baby greens, like nutty-flavored sunflower sprouts. New Zealand spinach is yet another option. It can be eaten raw, but this can limit nutrient absorption due to the presence of oxalic acid, so a more nutritious option is to sauté it first. You can also toss in some shredded cabbage leaves.
If you are still harvesting lettuce in mid-spring, the leaves may be turning bitter as the plants enter the late stage of growth, so here is a helpful tip: Try researching recipes for salads built around bitter greens like radicchio or endive, and see which ingredients and flavors are typically added to them. Then combine these ingredients with your lettuce instead. Olives, drizzled honey, lemon juice, vinegar, green beans, and red onions are some possible additions to balance the bitterness of late-in-the-season lettuce.
Red onions may be starting to bulb out in some gardens. If not, you still have green onions and chives to give your salad some aromatic zing. Green bush beans are in their prime now. The beans are complemented by any number of herbs that flourish in mid-spring, such as dill, tarragon, and oregano.
Fennel and mint can be added to the mix now, along with a mustardy morsel in the form of arugula flowers or something from your radish plants -- roots, flowers, or seed pods --depending which stage the radish crop is in. Chopped celery (salty) and shredded carrots (sweet) can be tossed into the salad for some refreshing crunchiness and crispness.
If you still have cilantro leaves to pick, these can be added to a spring salad, along with any early ripening hot peppers to spice things up. Cilantro plants that have grown past the leaf and flower stage may provide you with a nice crop of coriander, the dry fruit of cilantro. Coriander pairs well with artichokes, that mid-spring favorite. If you don’t have artichokes or need to supplement your yield, try harvesting sunflower buds sparingly. These can have a piney flavor, especially as the flowers come closer to opening, but they are mostly reminiscent of artichokes. Sunflower buds can be quickly prepared for eating by steaming, boiling, or sautéeing. This goes for asparagus, too, if your crop is still producing. It’s time to stop harvesting asparagus once the emerging spears are thinner than a pencil, but if thick new spears are still coming up, keep harvesting them and adding them to your salads!
Our epic seasonal salad will take a decidedly sweet turn once tree fruits come into season. While we’re waiting for that to happen, we can keep experimenting with the sweet notes that berries and edible flowers bring to the salad bowl. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, violas, carnation petals, and rose petals may all be available to harvest now. (Here again is a word of caution about edible flowers.) Remember, the white portions at the base of carnation petals and rose petals taste bitter and should be removed.