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First spring salad of tiny baby greens

First spring salad of tiny baby greens

This could be the world’s tiniest salad. It’s the perfect, tender little harvest from my first few greens that are finally sprouting enough leaves to begin eating them. Isn’t that first handful of fresh baby greens the most amazing taste experience? It’s like eating pure energy fresh from the ground; and each leaf has its own distinct taste and texture. Here in this little collection I have baby spinach, mizuna, an heirloom red lettuce, mesclun mix, fennel, chives, fresh tarragon, the tiniest arugula leaf, several leaves of sorrel and a few pea shoots. Eating it was pure delight.

Naturally, I had to quickly mix up a bit of dressing worthy of the occasion; even my very tasty storebought Balsamic vinaigrette wasn’t really right, and it would have overwhelmed these tiny greens anyway. I spied a few leftover lemons on the kitchen counter from when Tomas was sick last week, and the aha! moment struck. In a nutshell, here is what I did (and the base for it was a few tablespoons of leftover olive oil from our recent camping trip):

Lemony Garlic Dressing

Several tablespoons olive oil

juice of half a lemon

1/4 tsp stone ground mustard (I had a little jar of saffron mustard from Prague sitting in the fridge that has a very delicate flavor and was just the ticket)

1 clove garlic, minced

several grinds of pepper

1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt

a bit of chopped fresh herbs: in this case, I used some frozen dill I found in the freezer because it seemed like it would complement the lemon really well and, well, it was there. It was probably between 1/4 and 1/2 tsp.

Mix all ingredients together in a small bottle and shake vigorously. Taste and season as needed.

This dressing had a distinct lemony bite to it, but could be softened a bit by increasing the oil to lemon juice ratio. I thought it was just exactly right for the snappy, fresh greens that I’d picked 20 minutes ago, which had a little¬†tart bite of their own. I used the dressing VERY sparingly, just enough to add a little bright zing to the greens, not to cloak their uniquely ‘green’¬†flavor.

This was my salad two days ago. Today I got to add a few leaves of baby bok choi and some small radish leaves. It’s hard to believe that pretty soon I won’t be able to keep up with the overabundance of lettuces, 4 kinds of spinach, and dark leafy greens taking over the raised beds! It’s so hard to be patient…

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It’s early June and here is what is growing (and edible) in my Colorado garden.

Spinach (just getting from tender salad greens to cooking-quality leaves)

Chard (we just enjoyed our first batch)

Collard Greens (also just had a first batch a few days ago, looking forward to more!)

Radishes (finishing off the last of these)

Pea shoots, peas are on the way

Mesclun greens (assorted including arugula and others)

Speckled heirloom lettuce

Romaine lettuce

Red leaf lettuce

Herbs: chives, 2 kinds of basil, tarragon, 3 kinds of sage, oregano, thyme, 4 kinds of mint, flat-leaf parsley, sorrel. Yanked the last of the cilantro a few days ago.

The red onions are looking great but I’m going to be good and wait for the shoots to dry up and wilt…

On their way (i.e. fruit already visible, just a matter of patience): Currants, gooseberries, celery, peas, zucchini.

That’s it for now… the abundance of greens is certainly testing my culinary creativity, but boy does it feel good to eat them! I will miss them greatly when they are gone, though I have a late crop of Tuscan black kale seeds in the soil in hopes of a mid-summer plethora of dark green goodness. And the chard tends to last really well through the summer.

Happy gardening – and eating – it’s finally feeling a lot like summer!

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