Salad in January

Fresh from the "farm"
Fresh from the "farm"

The family has named my LED light setup, the farm.  I like it.  I haven’t posted about it much this winter because I have no idea how many pictures of lettuce growing in flats the world really needs.  But this is from my second set of seedlings and the last experiments before I convert their use to growing seedlings for the garden.

Simpsons Elite and Red Sails are still the staple crop and will continue to be.  I start one flat and then split them between two when they need the room. The red sails varies in color depending on how much light it gets; with some of the plants in the middle of the flat getting very red. These were picked small.  I can pick for weeks but at some time the plants get tired and brown easily.  I picked the last good leaves from the crop I timed for Thanksgiving and threw the rest of those plants on the frozen compost pile today.

The two plants that are keepers from this year’s experiments are mizuna, the spikey leaved green at the front of the crisper and a variety of perilla called “Britton”, the small, bright pink/purple leaf toward the back left of the crisper. Both of these plants offer distinctive flavors in addition to textures and color that contrast and enhance my main crop lettuces in the bowl.  Although I find it’s easy to drown out those subtleties with the stronger flavors that we usually add to salads; crudities like sliced onions and even most salad dressings.

The perilla leaves are supposed to have green tops with red undersides.  But grown under the lights and picked as baby greens, they stay red on both sides, although the underside is brighter.  I didn’t get good germination but the day I planted I saw that the seeds do better with cold treatment, before planting.  The rest of the packet is in the freezer.

I’ve always had trouble growing apetizing mizuna in the garden as it’s a favorite of chewing insects.  And while I’ve eaten what’s left, it’s not an attractive salad green when full of holes.  There are no pests under the lights.  I’ll be growing more of it next year.

The stringy stems you see in the crisper are cut and come again cilantro, another experiment that worked.  One pot has served more than my winter needs.  I need to come up with ways to use it when fresh tomatoes aren’t in season.  I’ve been using it chopped over salads and bean dishes.  The variety is Calypso; it seems to do well under the cool conditions and along with the lettuces.

I also grew half a flat of mache and I’m not sure whether to do so again.  It could be a fertilization problem but the leaves never got as big as they do outside and I didn’t get a strong nutty flavor from the ones I picked.  Another downside is that I can grow two crops of lettuces and baby greens in the same time that it took the Mache to mature.


Rosemary in the Winter

I grow lot of my heat loving herbs in pots and then bring them in for the winter; they don’t go under my LED lights as I don’t want to introduce outdoor pests to that area.  But I can usually get a few years out of a Rosemary plant by overwintering it near a window.  I can have fresh herbs for cooking and any fallen needles make the vacuum cleaner smell good.

A more ambitious garden friend has taken cuttings and thinks they’ve rooted.  A very few of us on the gardens list were chatting about when to pinch back and fertilize.  The consensus, if you can call it that with only three people chatting, was that it was best to wait until the plants were showing signs of active growth, probably at the growing tips of the four to six inch stalks.  And then someone said, could they be putting energy into buds at the end without it being evident and well, none of us seem to know the answer to that.

My potted plant from last summer is doing the opposite; it’s growing numerous but weak stems from the ends.  This is the side of the plant that has been closest to the window.  These weak sections do not concentrate the oils well or develop much flavor, either.  I’ll cut them off when the plant goes outside this spring.

Rosemary's winter growth
Rosemary's winter growth