Although many cooks think of the winter salad as a pale green ball of iceberg lettuce cut in half with a plop of Russian dressing placed somewhat decoratively on salad plate, we are now finding new greens!
It may have been the case in our parents’ day when iceberg was one of the only alternatives for a dinner salad, especially where I grew up in the frigid Midwest.
Without the overnight express transportation that we have become accustomed to in the 21st century, there were few choices with gourmet vegetables in the 1960s.
Now, of course, especially in Southern California, the selection is seemingly endless, but the choices can be confusing.
ADD WINTER GREENS TO YOUR BEDS
If you have a simple raised bed, a selection of window boxes or full-fledged bedding plant area, you can grow a wide selection of greens in our colder months.
Of course, in the North County climate right now, we might have 70-degree daytime temperatures that fall to lower 50s in the evening.
Dark-leaf green vegetables in the cabbage family and brassica family not only grow successfully but sometimes become so prolific that they must be picked on an almost daily basis.
VISIT TO A HIDDEN GARDEN GEM
Recently, on a visit to her family farm, Esther Lin gave our Carlsbad Senior Garden Club a tour of their little patch of heaven on Highland Drive in Carlsbad. Although our class came in search of ideas for our salad gardens, we were quickly treated to a wide variety of fruit picked off the trees.
Esther and her husband, Frank, who were born in Taiwan, have owned their property for over 40 years, starting on a vacant lot in Carlsbad in 1980.
A TAIWANESE VEGETABLE GARDEN
The Lins grow a wide variety of greens, including mustard, bok choy, Chinese cabbage and tatsoi, but our biggest surprise was the large, 6-foot bed of daikon radish.
Joanne Chien, one of the senior garden students, walked over to the bed and pulled up six 12-inch white radishes. “Tonight, I will make soup from these!” The radishes are a favorite of all my Asian students and have no bitterness or bite as do the red variety.
The Green Lotus Organic Farm is open to the public by reservation. Contact the Lins’ farm at [email protected]. The farm is open daily for private informational tours with Esther and Frank Lin.
Their selection of fruit brings back memories for over a hundred visitors per year from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan.
GREENS MAKE FOR AN EASY SOUP
Esther shared with us one of her favorite daikon radish soups. She explained, “It’s so easy, but you can change it any way you want. It’s a good way to eat greens every day.”
Ingredients: Four white daikon radishes, three green onions, large bunch Swiss chard and Chinese cabbage, sesame oil, five cloves of garlic. One-quart chicken broth. One block tofu.
— Chop radishes (including green tops), onions and garlic, and sauté in sesame oil in small pan.
— In separate four-quart soup pot, add chicken broth and sautéed vegetables.
— Cover and cook for half-hour. Before serving, add chard and greens with sliced tofu and cook until greens are wilted.
— Add soy sauce to taste.
— Serve over rice noodles or rice.
SHOP FOR GREENS FOR YOUR GARDEN
Green Thumb Nursery in San Marcos has a large selection of Asian greens that can be planted in your January garden. The nursery’s Ashley Cole listed the varieties — bok choy, tatsoi, Chinese cabbage, mizuna (mustard greens) — with “lots more to come in a few weeks!”
Green Thumb Nursery is located at 1019 San Marcos Blvd. in San Marcos.
Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and teaches vegetable gardening at the Carlsbad Senior Center and other locations. Contact her at [email protected].