Salad Bar for Sun Lovers
It's time to let go of the lettuce and embrace these late spring salad ingredients
So, maybe you're in the mood for a salad now that the weather has heated up, but all of the lettuce outside has turned bitter, gone to seed, or been scorched. There's not a tender leafy green in sight. When this happens, you can go shop around for a head of lettuce, or you can start with what you do have.
Will you have lots of lettuce ready to harvest in 100-degree weather? Hmm... probably not.
How about starting with green beans? These are dense and chewy, where lettuce is delicate and crisp, but, like lettuce, beans can provide a mellow-flavored “bed” for more flavorful ingredients.
Artichoke hearts, steamed sunflower buds, tomatoes, and green onions are some in-season vegetables that can be sprinkled onto the green beans. Mozzarella cheese (or a rich, creamy vegetable like avocado) makes a nice addition, too.
Late spring salad bar -- Artichoke hearts, sunflower buds, tomatoes, and green onions
If bean salad sounds a little bland, you can spice things up with herbs, many of which are now in their peak season. Herbal dressings are delicious and easy to make. You just need some basic ingredients like vinegar, oil, and lemons, along with the herbs. Mix and match [link to herbal roulette] until you arrive at combinations that make your taste buds sing. Garlic is in season now, too, and many of your herbal dressings will benefit from some minced garlic cloves. If you have any hot peppers ready to pick, these can be diced and thrown in for extra heat.
A late-spring salad can be tastefully dressed with fresh herbs, minced garlic, and diced hot peppers
While tender leafy greens are a tall order this time of year, you can try to extend the lettuce season by selecting heat-tolerant varieties, giving the plants extra tlc, and growing them in shade (beneath a slanting trellis of cucumber vines, for instance, or under shade cloth.) And though lettuce might be mostly off the table for now, there are some leafy greens you can still harvest in hot weather. New Zealand spinach is going strong in many gardens, basil is exploding with new growth, and chard can still be productive now. When it comes to leafy greens, you can also think outside the box, er, raised bed. (link to gbp post.)
Late season leafy greens -- New Zealand spinach, Swiss chard, and basil leaves
And the list goes on. A late-spring salad bar can include other ingredients like these:
--Raw red onion slices
--Apricot pieces and other seasonal fruit
--Oregano flowers and other herbal flowers (as salad toppers)
Photos by Farmer Ryan, Farmer Jeff, Farmer Lori, and Farmer Sarah. All photos taken in southern Nevada gardens