preparing homegrown salad greens…

So after my last post where I used home-grown salad leaves from out the back in my shaved fennel, nasturtium and radish salad, I thought it might be the perfect time to give you all a few tips on how best to prepare your salad greens before use and my favourite way to keep them once picked.

Like I mentioned last post, the rocket (arugula) and mizuna are growing like crazy! I'm quite excited to see just how fast things are growing here in Perth compared to back home in NZ. I'd say the lovely warm sunny weather has something to do with that? (Don't hate me fellow kiwis!). I've been filling a large bowl everyday with greens and have started giving it away to family just to keep up with it all! The kids and Si love mizuna, but find rockets peppery taste a little too full-on so I'm the only one eating it... at every meal!

With all this lovely spring warmth we've even planted our tomato plants in the past few days. Something I wouldn't normally do until late October in NZ. But as we've already been getting into the mid 20's, it seems now is the perfect time to get them in before the insanely (and somewhat unpleasant) heat of summer hits (you kiwi's back home will be laughing at me in a few months time I'm sure. There is nothing mild about summers in Perth).

Right, onto the salad greens. Choose a time either early in the morning before the sun naturally wilts the leaves or later in the day once the heat of the day has passed to pick your leaves. Pluck the large outer leaves off, close to the base. Leaving the smaller leaves to keep growing.

Fill a bowl with water and sprinkle in a few teaspoons of salt. This kills any bugs that may be hiding in the leaves, making them float to the top. Gently swish the leaves around in the water and if you have time, leave them to soak for 5 or so minutes. Take extra care not to bruise the leaves of the delicate rocket (arugula). Take handfuls of leaves and transfer to a salad spinner, if you have a removable inner colander bowl you can give them another quick rinse under running water if you like. I cannot emphasize just how amazing salad spinners are if you grow your own salad leaves. You can pick them up for under $10 and mine gets used at least once or twice a day. Don't throw out the washing water either! Carry the bowl out to the garden and give your plants a drink.

Give the leaves a good few spins until pretty much dry. This is an important step as it not only keeps the leaves fresher than if they were still wet, but when you go to use them your salads, they will taste that much better because you will not end up with a wet soggy puddle in the bottom of your bowl and a watered down dressing.

Once spun, transfer the leaves to large plastic air-tight container, pop on the lid and store in the fridge. You can eat salad leaves straight from the garden but I think they are way nicer to eat if they've had at least half and hours chilling time in the fridge. They crisp up nicely.
Keeping them airtight will extend their shelf-life hugely compared to just storing in a bowl or plastic bag. Rocket (arugula) is pretty sensitive and will wilt within an hour or so if just placed in a bowl in the fridge. Packed correctly in a lidded container it should hang out in the fridge happily for 4-5 days. I do the exact same thing when I'm preparing kale or cavolo nero. Which means I've always got one or the other in the fridge ready to use, with minimal effort.

I know I probably sound like a broken record, but there really is nothing better than growing, picking and eating your own salad greens (or any other fruit & vegetable for that matter!). A packet of rocket seeds will only set you back a couple of dollars and can be planted in all sorts of containers if you don't have room for a garden. I've even grown it in an old ice-cream container with holes in the bottom for drainage when I was really desperate for some rocket in the middle of winter. I grew it in our little hot-house and although the leaves didn't get anywhere near as large and healthy as they would have if grown in a bigger space, they were fine to add a little bit of freshness to my winter salads.

I like eating simple salad greens with a really mustardy red wine vinegar dressing (and back in the day there would have been a good few shavings of Parmesan cheese in there too)... but what's your favourite way to eat them?

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  • Reply
    September 12, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Yum, I can't wait for my garden to get up and going again. I loooooove cavolo nero, and have been making an amazing version of this salad at least twice a week – I'm addicted!

    You should give it a try and see what you think 🙂

  • Reply
    September 12, 2011 at 8:47 am

    I just planted a whole bunch of rocket, mustard, cress and lettuce seeds so am very excited to see this post! Must get myself a salad spinner, I feel I will be eating a lot of leaves in the coming months 🙂

  • Reply
    Laura Friendly
    September 12, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Lovely picts! And thanks for the tip about adding salt to the water. I am a bit of a novice when it comes to growing/picking/cleaning my own veggies. This is the perfect way to clean without adding anything harsh!

  • Reply
    September 12, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Lovely post and funny because I posted a very similar one just tonight! xo m.

  • Reply
    September 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Amy~ I love that salad too! I make a version (that I blogged) using feta in place of Parmesan as we don't tolerate and kale in place of cavolo nero. Super yum aye.

    Milliemirepoix~ I'd so buy one 🙂

    Laura~ That salt trick is one of my mum's. I remember her filling the whole sink with homegrown veges and washing them like this. Works a treat, the little bugs don't stand a chance and float to the top…

    Meagan @ ecomilf~ Great minds think alike! Everyone reading, head over to ecomilf for plenty more great tips for keeping vegetables fresh and tips for using them up! Awesome.

  • Reply
    Leigh @ Toasted
    September 12, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I never knew! My greens always end up wilted in plastic bags! You may have caused a revolution in our life.

    Fav salad: greens with walnut oil and salt. Simple and Yum.

  • Reply
    September 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    I just LOVE this post on preparing and storing fresh garden greens!!! I will totally vouch for the airtight container, along with a paper towel across the top to absorb extra unwanted moisture. Thanks for sharing, Nicole'

    P.S. Do you have any natural recipe's for cleaning store bought veggies?

  • Reply
    September 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Leigh~ Yum that sounds good, see you tomorrow!

    Nicole~ I'm actually guilty of doing little more than a quick filtered water rinse with my veges. But I do remember my mum once mentioning something about a mixture of water, vinegar and salt to clean off any residual pesticides if non-organic. I'd give them a good soaking in it, in a bowl or sink.

    Actually a quick little google search came up with this, which pretty much backs mums method, with amounts and using lemon juice in place of vinegar.

    I might have to get into doing that too!

  • Reply
    September 13, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Thanks for this. I cannot wait to have a place to grow greens. I have failed pretty miserably with most gardening (Arizona does that; I'm sure Perth is similar), but I am excited to head back there and give it a go again. Lettuces and greens seem to be the place to start, and this is a great primer. Thank you! Also, the photos are lovely.

  • Reply
    September 14, 2011 at 3:05 am

    I'm so excited to have discovered your blog. I too am Vegetarian (for the past 30 years anyhow) and latterly GF and DF. I used Cavolo Nero and Land Cress fresh from the garden in a stirfry with a peanut satay sauce yesterday evening. It was delicious. The Land Cress, like Rocket, can be very peppery, so I didn't add any additional pepper spices and in amongst the sauce and all the veggies, it's peppery taste was minimised. It was delicious. Big ticks from the whole family.

    The salt for washing garden fresh vegetables is I find essential. I have been known to cook slugs in the past, even after a soak in water. So now I double soak in salted water.

  • Reply
    September 14, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Beautiful….must get planting!

  • Reply
    September 14, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Fresh greens from the garden is the best kind… very good point about the salt when washing… I've eaten some bugs in the past…hehe

  • Reply
    September 14, 2011 at 11:05 am

    I also grow lettuce and kale – and I'm curious… what do you make with your kale? I usually use it in omelettes and for juicing.

  • Reply
    September 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Mairi~ Thanks

    Cassie~ ah yes I've eaten my fair share of bugs 😉

    tfwalsh~ Hi there, I use it pretty much where ever you'd use spinach, silverbeet & lettuce. I like to sautee it in a little ghee & garlic. I love it raw in salads like this:

    or made into salt & vinegar kale chips like here:

    Or added to roasted vegetable salads like this:

    Hope that gives you a few ideas 🙂

  • Reply
    the good soup
    September 15, 2011 at 3:54 am

    Emm, you strike me as a much more patient person than I am. I often eat the salad greens straight from the garden, even with the risk of eating a little green grasshopper (!) or getting a molar full of gritty soil. Whenever either of those things happen (and they do, believe me), I drag out the salad spinner again.

  • Reply
    September 15, 2011 at 5:56 am

    Haha I'm not sure I'd call myself patient, but thank you, I just hate bugs and love crisp salad leaves 😉

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