Guest blogger Claire Jones talks about the first crops of the season...
It’s such a pleasure to be enjoying fresh salads once again. The combination of warmer temperatures, long light days and regular rainfall has done wonders for all the green leafy things in the garden.
One of my favourites is sorrel, which is a perennial, so I always make sure I leave some plants in over winter. That way, there are leaves very early on in the spring. But it’s good to keep sowing new plants each year as well to keep the stock rejuvenated.
Another early salad is pea shoots. I plant Sugar Ann, a great variety for harvesting the shoots – some varieties can have lots of wiry tendrils and be a little tougher. As the name suggests it’s a sugar snap variety, so I make sure there are enough plants to grow some on for pods as well.
I’m always quick off the mark to sow radishes, and the first row is usually ready in May. The early ones are delicious, so crisp and tender.
I sometimes struggle to grow good radishes in my hot dry garden in mid-summer, but the spring ones are perfect.
By this time of year my lettuces are doing well, having been sown a few weeks ago and grown on under cover until the weather improved. The same goes for mustard leaves. I like to grow several different varieties, from the mind-blowing giant red to the more delicate frizzy varieties. They are always popular round here and are guaranteed to liven up any salad bowl.
For me, the secret to a really good salad is variety and freshness. I grow the sort of salad leaves that can be picked individually just before they’re needed. I like different colours as well as intriguing flavours, so I always make sure there are some red oak leaf lettuces, lollo rosso or deep maroon mustards. I always add rocket if I have some as it’s one of my favourites, and I try and include a few hotter leaves.
At this time of year there is asparagus to be added, lightly cooked and drizzled with melted butter. Along with a few radishes, some crumbly English cheese and maybe a few walnuts from the cupboard it makes a perfect spring lunch.
Thanks for reading!
Claire Jones lives in a small market town in the southwest of England where she grows her own fruit and vegetables, both in the garden and on her allotment. She always believes that this will be the year of bumper harvests.