The Last Great Salad of 2011

It is, at last, getting very cold. Last night I went out and picked what I'm pretty certain was one of the last salads of the year for us. Our greenhouse hoops with carrots, lettuce, and the cilantro is on its last legs: the cilantro has started to succumb to the cold, and there's not much lettuce left in there to pick. In preparation for some really cold (low 20s) nights this weekend, I picked a lot of unprotected greens, carrots, and herbs. Here's what I ended up with:

The mixed greens included arugula, spinach, beet greens, mache, mesclun, and a bit of romaine I found growing back on a stem we had cut months ago. I also added some mint, cilantro, and chives that were hanging on through the cold. 

The carrots, by the way, are true baby carrots. "Baby carrots" from the grocery store are usually actually regular carrots that are whittled down to standard sizes and shapes. (I don't even want to think about what happens to the wasted carrot shavings.) For our real baby carrots, I pulled ones at the far end of the garden that are not protected, and that didn't really have enough time left in the growing season to fill out properly. Still, tiny carrots taste just as good, and they are even easier because you just rinse them off and throw them in--no chopping or grating required. And they look lovely, too.

I'm not sure that you can see it in the photo above, but I also cut a bunch of broccoli (still protected in a greenhouse tunnel) to add to the salad. Below is a photo of the broccoli alone:

This is an Italian variety that was supposed to produce very quickly. Perhaps due to our neglect (not fertilizing as much as we should, for example), it took a long time to get any results. I'm not quite ready to condemn it yet, but I'm tending to think that this variety isn't for us. It hasn't set up very big heads at all — the piece at the top is a center head from one plant. Not too impressive. On the plus side, this broccoli produces lots and lots of little side shoots, which you can see in the bottom half of the photo. I guess that makes it ideal to add to salad, and it is quite tender and delicious. It's hard to imagine it being worth the trouble to cut a pile of individual side shoots for a stir fry or to steam up as a side dish, though. We'd probably be happier adding a market variety to the mix, to get those great big heads to harvest. 

Anyway, it was a really excellent salad, made even better with the addition of some walnuts, dried cranberries, and gorgonzola crumbles. When all the ingredients are that good, you don't need much in the way of dressing. I just squeezed a lemon over it, drizzled some olive oil, and added a bit of salt and pepper. Oh, and a splash of pomegranate juice. I didn't really mix a dressing ahead of time, but just added those things and tossed it all together. 

It's sad to think that this is probably one of the last garden salads of the year for us, and I find myself thinking about all the things we could have done better to protect the fall veggies even longer. It's hard to imagine not having this again until April ….

Winter is a harsh mistress. 


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