There is something immensely satisfying about knowing that all the vegetables on your childs’ dinner plate have been grown in your own garden and it is this feeling of satisfaction that makes all the heartache and trauma of previous bad weather, pests, diseases and crop failures, if not exactly worthwhile, then certainly more bearable. This week the garden and I finally arrived at this point and the Mudlets sat down to barbequed pork chops with a salad of freshly picked mixed salad leaves, mangetout and thinned out baby carrots, with strips of just harvested courgettes to finish it off. Both girls declared the salad to be very tasty and cleared their plates.
Fast forward to yesterday (Friday) and the Mudlets and I had been invited to an Independence Day party by our American friend and her family. Now before anyone says anything, I do know my history but frankly I am not one to hold grudges, especially against something that happened some 238 years ago and so I happily accepted.
“Don’t worry about buying any salad stuff,” I said, “I’ve got loads growing in the garden!”
So yesterday afternoon, armed with my paring knife, I headed out to the garden to select the leaves needed for the main body of the salad. One ‘Really Red Deer Tongue’ lettuce, a Radicchio and a couple of the ‘Moretons Mixed’ lettuces later and I found myself at the kitchen sink, washing each leaf before popping it into a bowl of salt water. Once all the leaves were washed and soaking, I placed a small plate on top of the leaves to hold them securely under water and then placed the bowl into the fridge for a couple of hours.
A little later on, with the Mudlets home from school, we popped back out to the garden to gather the rest of the salad ingredients. First I took the cover off the Mudlets vegetable patch and showed the girls how to thin out their carrot rows but instead of composting the tiny seedlings, we collected them in a little bowl. I often take young carrot leaves to add to a salad, as they have a carroty taste and add interest and texture to a plain leaf salad. With only a quarter of the carrot rows thinned, we had enough seedlings and so I recovered the bed. We still need to thin the rest of the rows out but this can wait another day or two.
Next we picked a mixed selection of mangetouts and then a nice sized courgette.
After a thorough wash (and removing the tiny root from each of the carrot seedlings), the latest ingredients were ready to be added to the salad leaves. I drained the bowl of now crisp, cold leaves and gave the leaves a spin in my salad drier. Now I needed to make my salad look pretty and so I used the red, tongue shaped leaves of the aptly named ‘Deer Tongue’ lettuce to line the bowl and then chopped the rest of the salad leaves up, tossed them to mix them and then dropped them into the middle of the bowl. The carrot seedlings were scattered over the chopped leaves and the yellow mangetout were spaced evenly around the edges, with the larger green ‘Bijou’ mangetout, sliced and sprinkled over the top. I used my peeler to create dark green curls of courgette skin and then grated the paler flesh into the centre.
I was really pleased with the finished look and I covered the salad back up and popped it back into the fridge to chill some more, ready to take to the party.