Thursday, 8 April 2010

salad bowl, the sequel

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:
cranberry hibiscus
malabar spinach
okinawa spinach
red spinach
winged bean
gotu kola
bolivian culantro
vietnamese cilantro
wandering jew
purple wandering jew
orchid tree
gnetum gnetum
garlic vine

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.


  1. Arugula (my favorite green) grows like a weed in the tropics. So do the big variety of mustards-mibuna, mizuna,osaka purple, as well as all greens in the turnip family, beet greens, swiss chard as well as many of the Asian greens as baby greens.

  2. Hi Nicole,

    yes, we have arugula (may be my favourite too), and mustards, and baby Asian greens. I haven't however counted these as we haven't been able to get them to produce seed and are currently on the last from the seed packets we did manage to find. What I'm interested in are cut and come again crops, planting once to reap over a longer period than 2 months. Beets grow in CR at higher elevation, but I've never seen chard or turnips. Our4 arugula hasn't reached weed status here, perhaps we'll get lucky this time! keep those suggestions coming!

  3. Hi Ancel
    All those are cut and come again crops for me, and the aurgula and mustard greens set seeds like crazy. My rustic arugula (Sylvetta Arugula) lasted 2 years and also set seeds. If you buy jumbo packets of "microgreen seeds" you can have a couple years supply.

  4. Hi Nicole,

    I hope ours go to seed this time. It's hard to find seeds here for anything let alone microgreens, not really sure why this is so . . . But we're going to the States in June, I'll stock up then. Thanks so much for stopping in, and how lovely that you were able to visit Helen's Bajan Garden. Looks beautiful!

  5. Hi Ancel
    I usually stock up in the US, too or buy online. I found Johnny's Seeds had really good germination, and if you buy several ounces its quite economical. The same with Botanical interests with their jumbo packs.

  6. Ooh, thank you, great tips! Will look into it,



thanks for sharing!