The days of salad comprising a few limp lettuce leaves and a lacklustre tomato have thankfully long gone and salads today are vibrant and packed with flavour.
Growing salad crops yourself means you can eat them at peak freshness and they’re remarkably easy even if you have little space.
Just a few plants in the corner of a border, tucked into container or filling windowbox will ensure you have something tasty and nutritious throughout the summer.
And don’t limit yourself to lettuce. There are lots of things to grow to add some punch to your plate.
Here are some of my favourites that you can start growing now – remember, though, as with many vegetables, sowing little and often is the secret to avoiding gluts and having something to pick all summer.
Mustard leaves are a great way of adding a bit of spice to your salad. There are lots of varieties – some with beautiful leaves that will bring a splash of colour. Do pick them when the leaves are young before they get too fiery.
You may think of growing peas for the pods but the shoots are a great addition to a salad with a distinct pea flavour. Start them off in modules now, making sure to protect them from mice who also love them.
This is another that brings a bit of summer heat. For something a little different, why not try wasabi rocket, which has a distinctive flavour. Remember, the dainty flowers are also edible and are great for pollinators.
Packed with nutrients, young spinach leaves make a great alternative to lettuce. There are also red-veined varieties for additional colour.
Beetroot may be grown for the roots but the young leaves are a great addition to a salad, making this a really good value crop.
Also known as American cress, this alternative to watercress has a fiery flavour and is one of the hardiest of salad crops. Sow it now for summer use and again in the autumn for plants that will shrug off the cold and give you leaves all winter.
This is another vegetable that can be harvested young to add to salads. Look out for varieties such as ‘Rainbow Lights’ for added colour.
A good salad always has contrast and lambs lettuce or corn salad is great for a softer texture. Easy to grow, it will also self-seed quite happily.
If you’re short on space or can’t use a whole lettuce at once, cut-and-come-again is the perfect solution. Many companies produce mixed seed packets that will give you a range of leaves, such as red lettuce and filly lollo rosso types.
I can’t imagine a salad without a bit of crunch and radish any easy way of achieving it. Just make sure you harvest them regularly before they get woody.