Hello party people!
Who’s celebrating the Solstice this next week? Tuesday is going to be the longest day of the year which in our northern climes means the sun comes up just after 5am and then goes “night night” (#spendmyentiredaywithababy) at 9:10. It obviously marks the beginning of summer and the plants begin to change their growth patterns when the days get shorter and shorter. While heat is certainly a factor in how well some plants grow (seeds won’t germinate if the soil isn’t warm enough and the solanaceae family and other tropicals need the heat continuously in order to not kick the bucket), length of day is how I set my planting calendar. It could be 100 degrees at the beginning of August but in goes all the winter greens and roots nonetheless.
The early bird plants– the spinach, bok chois, and lettuces, though, are wanting to get some shut eye and not have to work so hard all day. They do better when the days are shorter and, in the case of lettuce, taste better when not using their sugar-power to beat the heat (hence why lettuces taste bitter in the summer’s heat, and why radishes are hotter). Right now I have the BEST TASTING LETTUCE I’ve ever eaten and we are going to bring a boatload to the market. Not only are they grown in delicious black dirt and tended with loving care, but the timing was just right. The lettuces got in the ground and rooted down in the cool, wet spring, were able to explode when the heat came, and now are ready for us to eat. There are about a dozen different varieties going at the moment, all chosen because they have a reputation for being delicious. I harvest my lettuces less than 24 hours before they hit the market– less time for them to get bitter and wilty.
I’ve been eating glorious and gigantic entree salads all week and, even though we’ve had a downcast week here in western WA, it still feels like summer. While not necessarily an ingredient-by-ingredient recipe, here are some tips for a stupendous salad. I made this with salmon, strawberries, and blue cheese for a friend’s family while she adjusts to having a new baby in the house (#helpthemamas).
Here is the formula for an amazing salad:
- A salad mix (like my fancy salad mix) or at least two varieties of lettuce, preferably with different colors and textures.
- A “spicy” green, like mizuna, arugula, or ruby streaks. You can mix these, too, but keep the ratio of lettuce to “other” about 3:1.
- A “chewy” green, like baby kale or baby chard. Not necessary, but mixes it up a bit. If your dressing has an asian bent to it, consider shaved napa cabbage.
- Some kind of fruit– maybe fresh, maybe dried.
- Some kind of nut– maybe slivered, maybe roasted.
- Some kind of seed– again, choice is yours if you want salted or roasted.
- A homemade vinaigrette
- Cheese, either shaved and mixed in if a hard cheese, or dolloped on top after the salad is mixed if soft.
That’s it! Now, to make the best salads, get a salad spinner. You know me, what with my minimalist blog and teaching the ultralight backpacking classes, I am probably the county’s leading proponent of multi-use items and getting rid of cluttery extras. That said, and I shall repeat, GET A SALAD SPINNER! It’s the only way you are going to enjoy a salad that isn’t soaking wet. Do as Farm Bestie Courtney does, and come home from market, cut all your salad up for the week, wash and spin it, and then leave it in the salad spinner in the fridge until you’ve nibbled it all down. Or if you spin right before you are making the salad, tie the leaves in a cloth and have them sit in the fridge for at least twenty minutes.
Another secret to a glorious salad is using a big bowl to mix it all up. This isn’t the time to give people dressing options nor is it worth the mess to save doing a dish. Why? Because it tastes so much better! Put all the ingredients in a very large bowl and mix with your hands (better for the tender leaves) until dressing coats all the leaves evenly and the toppings are distributed. Now transfer to a serving bowl or people’s plates and top with a little more cheese, some ground pepper, or some grilled meat or fish and you are IN BUSINESS.
Luckily big and beautiful salads are one of the fastest meals you can throw together, no extra long northerly solstice day required. I will be taking advantage of it’s speediness come Tuesday, however, because into that big, beautiful day I will be squeezing in our first CSA harvest day and pick-up! Three cheers for Community Supported Agriculture and all the awesome women who put money up front to fund the farm. I’m saving the first snap peas for you (for a salad or straight out of the container 🙂)
originally posted on heartofgoldfarm.wordpress.com