CORVALLIS, Ore. – The end of summer is a perfect time to sow salad greens for harvest throughout the fall and winter months.
"If you live in the warmer, wetter regions of the state, you can plant lettuce and other greens now," said Oregon State University vegetable breeder Jim Myers. "In the colder areas of the state, a cold frame or cloche can help lengthen the harvest season into winter."
If you harvest through the winter, protect your greens from late fall and winter downpours. Leafy greens tend to rot.
For salad lovers, plant a row of about five feet of salad greens per week in successive plantings. Seeds of salad greens are sold as mixtures (as "mesclun") or separately as varieties. The mixtures may contain any combination of lettuces, chicories, dandelion greens, cresses, arugulas, chervil, endive, fennel, parsley, oriental greens, mustards, purslane, orach and mache (corn salad).
Some are tangy; others are mild or bitter. When the flavors, colors and textures are combined with a zesty dressing, salad becomes a nutritious eating adventure.
Arugula, also called rocket or roquette, is a hardy member of the mustard family. With a toasty, pungent flavor, arugula can be sown as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring and periodically thereafter. Resembling dandelion greens, arugula is rich in beta-carotene and higher in vitamin C than almost any other salad green. Some eastern Mediterranean people consider it an aphrodisiac.
Endive is in the same family as lettuce. With smooth pale elongated heads, endive has more flavor than many types of lettuce. Curly endive, sometimes called chicory, has curly edged green leaves. Escarole, a relative of chicory, has broad, wavy green leaves with a pleasant slightly bitter flavor.
Radicchio, or red chicory, adds wonderful red color and zesty, mildly bitter flavor to salads. It often grows in small heads. Mache, also called corn salad, has velvety leaves and a mild taste and is one of the most cold-hardy of the salad greens.
Watercress has pungent sprigs that resemble parsley. Cresses have a peppery flavor, while mustards "bite" the tongue.
Plant salad green seeds a quarter-inch deep in rows four to six inches apart. Harvest the greens when young, with scissors. Cut the young leaves about a half-inch above the soil line and the leaves may re-grow for a second harvest. Or the greens may be cut at ground level for a single harvest.