Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Underrated Salad Sandwich

Finding the fridge bare at lunchtime today, I headed out into the garden...

Clockwise from left to right, you see here chopped chives, claytonia, winter gem lettuce, little gem lettuce (the thinnings from my overcrowded trough), spiky Mizuna, and Pizzo mustard (also thinnings). Not a bad selection; the gem lettuces provide a good base, the mustard and mizuna add spice, the claytonia leaves are beautifully succulent, and the chives brighten the whole thing up with that mild oniony flavour.

I piled the leaves into a sandwich with mayo and a generous grinding of black pepper, topped them with a couple of slices of tomato, and voila! Not just a few leaves between two pieces of bread, but a thick sandwich full of crunch and flavour. And as I ate it I kept thinking of other things I could have added too; basil or oregano leaves, garlic chives (used sparingly - they're very strong raw!), spring onions which are just approaching a decent size now, and a trayful of peas grown for shoots that I haven't cut yet.

And how I wished for the first radishes from the allotment, or some lemony sorrel!

Of course, a sandwich of plain lettuce wouldn't have got me so excited, but with all these flavours to play with you can really make a sandwich or salad to suit your tastes. Later in the season of course there will be carrots and beetroots to grate in, tangy saltwort, sweet and crunchy mangetout pods, more herbs, spinaches, peppery nasturtiums - all sorts! I'm resolving right now to eat more salad sandwiches...

It's so easy to grow salad leaves like this, everyone should do it! And when they're freshly picked they're fantastically nutritious. All you need is a few pots on a patio or balcony and a quick check each day or two to make sure they're not drying out or under attack. (A sprinkle of organic slug pellets around the area and a simple soap spray to combat any aphids is enough to keep pests at bay.) Most leafy greens don't even need much sunshine and will do fine in shady areas.

And if any of the salad-growers amongst you haven't tried claytonia (winter purslane) I recommend you do! It has grown very quickly and the leaves are really fleshy and succulent with a mild, cool flavour. It's supposed to grow well through winter as well, hence the name.

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