I am always excited when something grows well in my garden, especially if it is a new vegetable or plant. I would never say that I’m a big-time gardener, I just have a small, sunny area in my yard which I call a “garden.” And I mainly do things by “trial and error” with the help of a gardening guide. If something grows well, I’ll try it again. In February, I transplanted a 4-pack of mixed lettuce-type seedlings — it was called sweet salad green mix. According to my gardening calendar, it really should have been planted in December thru January. But, I thought I’d take a chance. Why not? (I read the gardening guide after I got home!) Wow, in a month these greens flourished and grew well, as you can see. And so I am proud to be making a salad, “Sweet Salad Greens with Balsamic Vinaigrette,” with the greens.
Here’s my salad. The greens were crisp but tender, a little tangy like licorice. I kept this salad simple, as the greens were so flavorful. I added colorful cherry-type tomatoes, green onions, hard boiled eggs and fresh Parmesan cheese.
For the dressing, I made a delicious “Balsamic Vinaigrette.” It had just the right balance of balsamic vinegar and olive oil with a touch of sugar, garlic, Dijon mustard and salt. The dressing is so easy to make; there is really no reason to purchase salad dressings, in my opinion. I really like the punch that balsamic vinegar gave to the salad greens.
I really wish I knew exactly what I was eating as the label on the 4-pack of green seedlings indicated “Sweet Green Mix” but didn’t tell what the greens were. Nor did the gardening center know what was in the pack that I purchased. I think I can identify, arugula, spinach, oak leaf lettuce and mustard greens. I plan on returning to the gardening center to have a conversation about labeling. Not that I’m a stickler for details, but it just would be nice to know what greens were in the pack. Plus, I might get more ideas on what else I could grow.
Growing lettuce in Louisiana
From this trial and error experiment, I can say that growing lettuce in Louisiana is possible. It is a cool weather crop and grows best from 45 degrees to 75 degrees. Although we have been having both record high and low temperatures, in general, our temperatures are in the 70’s during the day in March. And these greens do grow quickly. On the left is the seedlings as planted in February — with Italian parsley in front — on the right are the greens one month later. One of the greens already began growing a yellow flower. This means the greens was “bolting” and going to seed. Then it becomes bitter with much smaller leaves. It was definitely time to harvest this green.
I love to make homemade salad dressings and have featured several types on previous blog posts. Here’s another of my favorite dressings, “Balsamic Vinaigrette.” This one is so easy to make. Mix together the vinegar, crushed garlic, Dijon mustard, sugar and salt. Then either whisk in the olive oil or slowly blend using a small food processor. Refrigerate the remaining dressing. The vinegar and oil layers will separate. To reconstitute, remove from refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Make sure the dressing jar lid is very. very tightly sealed, then shake to remix the dressing layers.
I like to add the vinaigrette dressing to the salad bowl rather than to pass it around at the table. Seems like you use less dressing this way.
There are plenty of salad green mixes which you can purchase in grocery stores. I’m lucky to have my own “private reserve” blend for several weeks. I’ll surely enjoy my garden salads with this great homemade salad dressing. Enjoy!
Sweet Salad Greens with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Ingredients for salad::
- about 2 cups sweet salad green mixture per person
- Balsamic Vinaigrette
- 8 to 12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
- 2 green onions, sliced
- fresh grated or shaved parmesan cheese
Method and Steps:
- Sort, rinse and drain salad greens. Tear into bite-sized pieces, removing any tough stems. Transfer to salad bowl.
- Pour Balsamic Vinaigrette over salad greens and toss to combine.
- Add cherry tomatoes and hard boiled egg slices around the edges of the salad bowl. Scatter green onions over greens.
- Pass grated or shaved parmesan cheese at the table.
Ingredients for Balsamic Vinaigrette:
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1/3 cup olive oil
Method and Steps:
- Place balsamic vinegar in small bowl.
- Add Dijon mustard, sugar, salt, crushed garlic cloves to bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing is well-blended. Alternatively, used small food processor or blender to combine ingredients.
- Transfer to carafe for serving.
- Store remaining dressing in jar with tight screw-type lid. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes or more before serving. With light tightly screwed on, shake jar to remix vinegar and oil layers.