You can grow your own baby greens at home, for pennies compared to what commercial mixes cost. You can even customize your baby greens mix to the greens you enjoy, and omit the ones that you don’t enjoy eating.
Baby greens are your normal lettuce, bok choi, mustard, arugula, chard, kale, spinach, and other greens that are grow in a dense patch. The density of the patch helps prevent heads from forming, with lettuce, and encourages a loose-leaf format of growth. It also suppresses weeds, minimizing how many clover leaves need to be picked out of the greens mix. Lastly, the greens are harvested at a small stage, usually between 2″ and 4″ in length.
Now baby greens can be a one-off harvest from that section of the garden bed. Or, it can be used as a “cut and come again” bed, where you harvest a quarter at a time, and let the stumps of the plants grow new leaves. Often, if treating it as a cut and grow again bed, you can get 3-5 harvests from the same plants/seeds.
I prefer doing my baby greens as a cut and grow again bed, simply because I have to dedicate less garden space to salads that way. If I pulled the plants, or harvested, tilled, and replanted, it would take longer and I’d get fewer harvests from that space. Now, I’m in a zone three climate, and can grow my baby greens nearly all summer, I rarely have the plants bolt until August, even when started in April. If you can start lettuce in March or earlier, in your zone, your baby greens will probably bolt in June or July. So keep that in mind with planning for companion plants, or succession planting.
Planting Baby Greens:
You can buy pre-mixed mesculen mix seeds, or baby green mix seeds if you wish. You can also make or own mix using different types of lettuce, kale seeds, mustard seeds, mizuna, bok choi, spinach, orach, swiss chard, and other greens.
Prepare your seedbed for seeding. I prefer to weed, top dress lightly with compost and stir in the compost. Then rake the bed level.
To plant the seeds, simply scatter the seed mix evenly over the bed and firm in. Water well and wait for germination.
Once germinated, the baby greens will be ready to harvest in a few weeks. Water regularly during your growing season.
Harvesting Baby Greens:
Using scissors, cut the greens about 1/2″ above soil level. In the spring, the greens are growing fast, and there’s lots of antioxidants and nutrients available in the greens. They’re also growing too fast to develop the bitter taste that lettuce can get later in the growing season.
What you end up harvesting is baby lettuce, baby kale, baby spinach, tatsoi, baby bok choy, and more of whatever you planted. Late in the season, if some of the lettuces and stuff start dying off, you can let the kale and hardier greens grow to a larger size before harvesting, or let the kale and swiss chard take over the bed as the more tender greens bolt and are pulled.
Cut just as much as you need to fill your salad bowl, and the bring the cut greens indoors to wash them up. Spin the washed greens out in a salad spinner. Remember to check for slugs, as they can like hiding in the densely planted lettuce.
Once your greens are washed and spun, you’re ready to build a salad.
Building Your Salad:
Green salads have a ton of vitamins, fiber, and are low on calories on their own. But, most people like salads that are more than just baby greens. Whether you’re having guests over, or it’s just for your own lunch, a baby green salad can be quickly doctored up from a side-dish, to a main dish.
Starting with the dressing. Most of the time I like a simple vinaigrette. I make my own with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, spices, crushed garlic, and sometimes diijon mustard. For sweetness, I’ve added raspberry juice, sometimes honey, and sometimes maple syrup. I only add enough sweetness to counteract the bite of the vinegar.
Along with your freshly grown mixed baby greens, other ingredients can be added as you wish. I like adding sliced baby carrots, radishes, or other tender root vegetables to some of my salads. Another tasty option to add is cucumber or celery, as it adds a bit of crunch without a lot of volume.
If making a salad for a main course, adding protein and fats of some type is a good plan to increase satiety. Cheeses of different types can help, blue cheese is sometimes used in many different salads and salad dressings. Expensive specialty cheese can also be highlighted in a nice salad, goat cheese is a good example. I like adding cheddar or Parmesan cheese to salads that are intended as a main course. Nuts, especially toasted nuts like almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, or sunflower seeds also work. Pan toast the seeds in a dry pan, or with a touch of olive oil and add to the salad once well toasted.
I like adding fruit, either fresh or dried as one small part of the salad. Dried cranberries, or fresh pears, apples, or strawberries and other berries work well.
If you want to add endive to your greens mix, consider that
Lastly, you can add a more solid protein like chicken to the salad, if you want it to be a main course.
If it’s winter, you can still fill a salad bowl with fresh baby greens. Simply grow microgreens indoors, and you’ll have fresh, nutrient rich salad ingredients all winter long.
New to growing food and vegetables?
Check out the Fill Your Salad Bowl workshop and learn how to use 3 different growing methods, at home, so you can fill your salad bowl with super food, nutrient dense, greens every single day. These are greens you can use in your salad bowl, greens you can add to soups, stews, and pasta dishes, and even greens you can use in a stir fry.
In this mini workshop you will learn how to fill a salad bowl every day with food you grow yourself.
- Even if you don’t have any land.
- Even if there is 3 feet of snow covering your garden
- Even if you’ve killed house plants in the past.
- Even if you think you have a black thumb.
Have a look at what’s covered in this workshop and see if its a good fit for you, by clicking/tapping the blue button below.