Salad Days: A Report on the Winter Garden
These are indeed “salad days” here at Elm Street Gardens. But in the literal sense and not the idiomatic usage of the phrase, which long ago referred to qualities exhibited by a young person with little experience of life. More recently it has come to mean the heydays of a person at the peak of their abilities. To drag this out a bit more, I thought it quite interesting that the use of the phrase “salad days” has been traced to Shakespeare with Cleopatra saying of her affair with Julius Caesar, “My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood” (thank you, Wikipedia). To me, the key word here is “green.”
Enough of that. I do love my salads – any time, any day! And now is the time for really great lettuces for those salads as Elm Street Gardens churns out the greens. I have not managed to count the number of varieties of lettuces we have growing right now (Johnny’s Seeds and their wonderful salad mixes give us an terrific variety of lettuce types), but there are many colors and textures and flavors from mild to spicy.
Before Jim Fraser came to manage Elm Street Gardens, I was often in a tizzy worrying about having enough lettuce, but Jim has managed and planned the gardens so well that we have a gracious plenty of lettuces for ourselves as well as our customers. (The unusual early severe cold before Thanksgiving did hurt the broccoli and cabbages, as we are not used to covering those varieties this early in the season and didn’t cover them then, but we did cover the lettuces.)
So with the carrots and radishes and sweet Japanese turnips we have coming out of the garden to go with this wonderful bounty of lettuces, I am a happy camper in these cold months. In a perfect world we would have the glorious tomatoes of summer along with the wonderful lettuces of fall, winter and spring. But while we are always trying to figure out how to extend the season for each, we’re not there yet.
Here is my current favorite salad dressing: Make a basic vinaigrette with good quality olive oil and vinegar of your choice (my current go-to vinegar is a seasoned rice vinegar). Proportions are roughly the classic 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 oil. I start by adding a dollop of sweet hot mustard (I’ve been using Inglethoffer Sweet Hot Pepper Mustard) to the vinegar and then add salt and pepper to taste along with – about a teaspoon of ground cumin. You will figure out the quantity that suits your taste buds the best. Then add the olive oil and combine well.