Magazine article Sunset

Surprising Greens for Summer Salads

Magazine article Sunset

Surprising Greens for Summer Salads

Article excerpt

These tasty greens thrive in hot weather

Succulent leafy greens needn't vanish from the vegetable garden with the onset of warm weather. A number of unexpected greens that thrive in summer heat make delicious additions to salads and cooked dishes.

The different greens described here vary substantially in flavor and texture, and not all of them appeal to every taste. The young leaves of all the greens we list can be used in salads. The mature leaves of amaranth, chard, orach, and perpetual spinach taste best when cooked. Certain greens, particularly Malabar climbing spinach, win rave reviews from cooks. Experiment, using different greens in different ways, until you find the ones that you like best.

Order seeds as soon as possible for planting after the last hard frost in your area; seed sources are listed on page 96.

SPINACH SUBSTITUTES

The toughest, most heat-tolerant of the group are amaranth, Malabar climbing spinach, and New Zealand spinach. They are often sold in catalogs as warm-season substitutes for spinach, and can be used wilted, to replace other greens in recipes and in stir-fries, or fresh in salads.

Amaranth may be familiar to some gardeners as a 3-foot-tall ornamental plant, but it is also a tasty green. Leaves may be brilliant scarlet, plain green, or mottled red, green, and yellow. Choose leaf varieties, not grain-producing types. Harvest leaves before plants flower.

Cooked amaranth is less watery and more flavorful than spinach, although not as smooth. Tender young leaves add a colorful touch to salads.

Malabar climbing spinach is a fast-growing vine that can be trained on a trellis or fence. Fresh leaves are succulent and mild. As wilted greens, they are somewhat slippery like okra, but they give good flavor and body to soups.

New Zealand spinach is a spreading plant that grows 6 to 8 inches tall. In mild-winter climates, it's perennial. Pluck off the top 3 inches of tender stems and leaves. Raw leaves are mild, slightly salty, succulent, and fleshy. Cooked, they taste like spinach.

Orach (also sold as mountain spinach) grows 3 feet tall if leaves are pinched off regularly; otherwise, it can reach up to 9 feet. Red- or green-leaf types are available. Leaves are smaller when orach is grown in summer rather than in spring or fall. The young, tender leaves can be eaten raw in salads. Cooked orach tastes like spinach.

GREENS YOU CAN GROW ALMOST YEAR-ROUND

Chard and perpetual spinach are commonly thought of as cool-season greens, but they thrive during the summer in most areas (except the deserts), and are less likely than regular spinach to bolt (go to seed). Harvest outer leaves; new leaves grow from the center. 'Rhubarb' ('Ruby Red') chard has red stems. Perpetual spinach, a type of chard, has smaller ribs than other types of chard. …

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