There are some amazing heritage plants that are starting to make a come back. These perennial plants are usually not something you would find at your local nursery, as where is the business sense in selling you something once so that you never have to return and buy more!
Growing perennial salad greens has many benefits, the greatest of which is that they are always ready to eat well before any lettuce!
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These hardy plants will grow like weeds and often will pop up whether you planted them or not!
Perennial Salad Green – Miners Lettuce
Also known as winter purslane, Indian lettuce or Spring beauty, miners lettuce is a native to North America, and is common in California.
If you don’t know what it is, chances are you will pull it out thinking that it is a weed!
As the days start getting shorter, the seeds will germinate. It grows densely and prolifically, just like a weed. But don’t panic, it will die down again when the heat of the Summer hits.
Miners lettuce has thick, succulent, bright green leaves and they are a reliable source of salad greens in the Winter and early Spring when not much else is around.
Harvest the tender stems and leaves. They taste crisp and juicy with a hint of lemon. Also, chickens LOVE it.
Miners lettuce is rich in vitamin A, C and antioxidants. They also contain good amounts of manganese, potassium, iron, copper and calcium. Miners lettuce seeds are rich in omega 3’s.
You can eat it raw, or lightly steam it, in the same way you would spinach. It pairs well with butter and black pepper or a white sauce with onions.
Where to grow Miners Lettuce
It is worth finding a spot in the semi shade where you can allow miners lettuce to just grow.
You can establish it in pots, or basically anywhere moist and a bit shady. It produces a lush and thick ground cover.
How to grow Miners Lettuce
Miners lettuce will grow in sun, light or heavy shade, but for the best leaves, grow it in a cool, damp semi shaded area.
Miners lettuce prefers a light, sandy soil with enough organic matter to keep it moist but not boggy.
Sow seeds in Spring or Autumn/Fall when they will usually germinate rapidly. Sprinkle them on the ground and barely cover them with a fine dusting of topsoil or potting mix.
Although it is frost hardy, in very cold areas it is best grown in an unheated green house or under cloches.
Why you should eat Miners lettuce
Californian gold miners recognised this plant had very high levels of vitamin C which they ate to stave off scurvy. Hence the name!
The leave contain antioxidants, plant sterols and allantoin, an strong wound healer that is found in acne creams of all places.
Perennial Salad Green – Corn Salad
Corn salad is also known as lambs tongue, lambs lettuce, mache and feldsalat (field salad). Originating from north Africa and western Asia it is a hardy, edible annual that self seeds easily and is often put in the same box as perennials for that reason.
Corn salad is so hardy it will even grow with snow on the ground!
The leaves of corn salad have a velvety texture, and the taste is mild, delicate and nutty.
The plant forms a low growing rosette, and can be fiddly to pick, but are worth it for the flavour!
Corn salad contains substantial quantities of the B vitamins, including folate, vitamin C, iron, potassium and omega 3s.
Corn salad was the main winter salad green for hundreds of years before the development of modern Winter-proof lettuces.
How to Grow Corn Salad
Being a cold weather crop, it is best grown in the colder months of the year. In hot weather the plants will grow much slower and are prone to bolting to seed.
Sow seeds outside in Autumn/Fall for early Spring crops.
Corn salad prefers an open, sunny sight in deep, rich, fertile soils.
Plants can be grown as cut and come again seedlings all close together, or spread out as individual plants.
Sow the seeds in well watered drills about 1cm/ 1/2 an inch deep and 20-30cm/8-12 inches apart.
You can also grow corn salad in pots if you prefer.
Leaves can be picked as and when required, just be sure to leave enough on the plant so it doesn’t die.
Why you should eat Corn Salad
Corn salad has been regarded as a Winter and Spring tonic thanks to its high vitamin, folate and beta-carotene content.
How to cook with Corn Salad
Simply wash the leaves to remove any dirt and then remove excess water in a salad spinner. Add it raw to any salad. It pairs well rich flavours like bacon and blue cheese.
Winter Salad Greens in the Garden: Grow these for year-round salads
These two salad green will grow beautifully through the Winter and give you your first taste of Spring well before any cultivated greens will.
Does all this sound amazing, but you don’t know where or how to start? Check out our beginners gardening course.
For further reading, I really recommend all of these books. I own every one of them and they are amazing resources!