With California’s winter rains flooding out some lettuce farms, greens are going up in price nationwide. Some reports say that lettuce is going for $3.99 a head.
Well, if you use your head, you can still enjoy salads without going broke. Stores and farmers markets still have plenty of less-expensive green leaves to fill your salad bowls.
Green and red cabbage come to my mind first, especially green. Just slice the leaves into shreds, or tear into bite-sized pieces, and try a cupful in your next salad. And red cabbage always makes a nice accent.
I’m also thinking of the greens that decorate so many vegetables — and that we so often throw away. Did you know that carrot greens, sweet potato leaves and radish leaves are edible? I’m not saying make a whole salad of them, but if you have access to any of these, try a handful in the salad bowl. (I’ve tried radish leaves myself and am still alive.)
Beet greens are another overlooked possibility. Harvest the smaller leaves to add to a salad instead of throwing them away. The larger leaves can be sliced or chopped or torn; the larger leaves might have more of a bitter taste. (I save the long stems to add to soups and stews, but you can certainly eat them raw too. Just chop into half-inch lengths.) I also like to cook beet greens like spinach. (And I love the beets, too.)
Don’t forget our trendy friend kale. These days I usually add a kale leaf or two to my lettuce salads, or maybe it’s a lettuce leaf or two to my kale salad. At any rate, minus the stems (which also are good in soups and stews, cut in half-inch pieces), kale leaves make an excellent and healthful salad.
One class of greens to definitely NOT sample is rhubarb leaves. There’s a reason rhubarb stalks come to the store shelves already trimmed — the leaves can be poisonous. Leave those leaves in the garden, please.
Also, check out bagged salads. If you stick to the “plain” bags of just one kind of lettuce, the price per serving might be better than the per-head cost.
For those who like to play the long game, now is a good time to start your own salad greens in the garden, or in a pot or two. Several heads of arugula are going crazy right now in a large container in my yard, which doesn’t lend itself well to plot gardening.
So I grow it in containers, and have learned to space the seeds around the pot rather than scattering them all over. This gives me several large heads instead of a mess of crowded seedlings that I have to pull and disrupt.
For those of you with limited space, a medium-size pot can support one arugula seed or seedling very well, or other lettuce of your choice. For the cost of a single head of lettuce these days, you can buy a packet of seeds and keep yourself in lettuce all summer if you plant a few pots each week. Just saying.
(c) copyright 2017 Laura Groch