‘Sallets’ – Perennial Salads [updated 3/4/14]

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‘Sallets’ – Perennial Salads [updated 3/4/14]

I’ve been reading John Evelyn’s “A Discourse on Sallets” and being a retro-romantic reactionary I found it all very fascinating. Reading it I was reminded that sallet might be making a comeback as a  permaculture term for perennial salad plants. It is a middle (read old) English spelling for salad. Many of the herbs and leaves in Evelyn’s book are familiar (lettuce, parsley, borage) others almost forgotten (skirret, good king henry). But not to Permaculturists who are familiar with such plants as skirret and good king henry because they are perennial edibles. Not all perennial edibles are all that great, however. Martin Crawford in his “Creating a Forest Garden” recommends young lime leaves (lime as in linden tree) in salads, which as much as I respect the really great research Martin has done, are revolting. So here are my selections for a perennial salad that actually taste nice and also can be grown perennially.

Chinese Chives. A really nice garlicky leaf and the flower shoots (scapes) can also be eaten.

Chives. If the plant is flowering cut a bunch with scissors and pick out the flowering shoots, as they are tough and unappetising.

Fennel. A nice refreshing taste.

Japanese Bunching Onion. Taste and look the same as a spring onion but divide like shallots. Cut them half an inch above the ground and the plant regrows.

Kale. Daubenton Kale is a perennial as is Paul and Becky’s Asturian Tree Cabbage . Other perennial kales are out there but these are the only two I can reliably get over the internet. They can be strong tasting – just rip them up and dress.

Mint. Tasty but not too much!

Radicchio. This is a type of chicory and like wild chicory it is perennial. It is also very bitter but if you put a bucket over it two weeks before you are due to harvest it, it will sweeten up nicely. This is the nice red and white leaves you get in bags of salad at the supermarket.

Rock Samphire. Gathered in shakespearean times, perennial, succulent (like a cacti) and strangely has a slight “kerosine” flavour. A long forgotten traditional English food.

Salad Burnett. Leaves that taste of cucumber. Perennial.

Scorzonera leaves. Possibly the nearest perennial leaf to lettuce. Mild with a little crunch.

Sorrel. A leaf with a lemony zing. I grow it close together and keep cutting. This way I fend off the flowering shoots and keep the leaves small and lots of them.

Water Cress. Can be grown in pots just never let them dry out. Protect from major frosts in winter with a bit of fleece or a cloche.

Honourable Mentions

These are plants that aren’t perennials but reseed so successfully you will never get rid of it from the garden.

Lambs Lettuce. Very hardy and stays green over winter. Very tasty.

Nasturtium. I have only sown this once but have had it for many years. The leaves, flowers and fruits are edible and nice in salads.

I realise that I haven’t got them all and I have deliberately missed out some obvious ones: Good King Henry isn’t that nice raw, for example. Also, red veined sorrel is just horrible to eat – I honestly think the nurseries should be done under the trades description act for selling this as an edible herb. Anyway, I know I’ve forgotten some so I will update this post at a later date. I am also going to try out some I’m told are good and I’ll get back to you with my findings.

Cheerio.

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