A long time ago -or at least 18 months ago - I had the idea to grow salad greens for the market. The fresh, beautiful, flower scented salad greens I would buy in Calafornian Farmers' Markets would sustain me all the week, and I was sure we could provide the same pretty bowls of colour and taste down here.
It has been a slow process. With no lettuce and few local options it has been a treasure hunt finding suitable greens. In this last year of trial and error we have found that here in a year round growing cycle, some of our greens are annuals: the cranberry hibiscus dies after flowering in December, the wandering jew goes dormant through December and January, the Malabar spinach gives up in February and March. Our salad mixes change weekly as we watch for flowers on the hibiscus and fret over the gingers. It has been more a year of research and development than one of production.
However it has worked and now we are slowly but steadily increasing our options and our knowledge. We found winged bean seeds in Panama and moringa growing at Punta Mona, a dark purple wandering jew is thriving on the deck off the kitchen and a news article in the national paper turned us on to two local, near forgotten edibles: the zorillo and chinquispil. Slowly it's coming together. the new plants and varieties we've gathered are not at full production yet. It's not like buying a seed packet and sowing them, instead we are given or find one plant or a couple of seeds and have to grow it out ourselves in the nursery until it is ready to produce: all our salad greens are second generation plants each with their own history and path to us. If I count what we have, including those in the nursery the list is impressive:
purple wandering jew
In another year we should have a really beautiful salad bowl, full of superfoods, brimming with flowers (pansy, ginger, hibiscus, orchid tree, morninga. . .) and just delicious.