Monday, August 2, 2010

Salad Bowls

I like salad. I’m a firm believer that eating raw vegetables has health benefits that exceed the value of those same vegetables (or similar one) cooked. There’s some science behind my belief, but when it comes down to it, really, I eat them because I like them. Most of the salads I eat are based on a bed of greens – sometimes they’re nothing but a bed of greens, and if you like salad greens you’re probably aware that the younger they are, the better they taste.

Over this past winter, I experimented with sprouting. Sprouting is quick and easy, and I tried all different kinds, and subsequently bought a lot of seeds. As soon as spring kicked in though, and it did so early and with a vengeance this year, my thought and appetite returned to greens and for the most part I gave up sprouting. This, in spite of the fact that I don’t have a proper garden this year. I confess, I was buying those little plastic tubs of organic baby greens from the local grocery store, as well as some from my local farmer’s market when they were available.

Then I had one of those head –slapper moment. Why on earth was I buying greens that I could just as easily grow myself? Most of those sprouting seeds I’d bought were for greens and salad herbs. So I got out a large pot, filled it with dirt, some home-made compost (which I continue to make even though I don’t have a proper garden yet) and seeded it with sprouting seeds, added water, and about three weeks later, harvested a nice crop of mixed baby salad greens large enough to provide a dinner salad for three adults and two children.

After harvesting my first salad, I hand tilled the soil in the pot, and started a new batch. Also, because it was so good and so popular, I started two more pots, staggered by a couple days. Homegrown salad greens are now becoming a staple of our household diet. More pots and we could have fresh, organic salad everyday, with exactly the mix of greens we want.

The news just gets better and better though. First, there’s the cost: A bag of mixed green sprouting seeds costs about the same as one plastic tub of organic greens from the grocery store – I’ve grown seven salads from the first bag so far, and have at least enough for three more. Next there’s the environmental impact: no plastic tubs, no driving to the store, no importing our greens from California. This isn’t the 100-mile diet – this is the 100-foot diet. With seed-saving (by allowing a pot to grow, bolt, and grow to seed), the price and environmental impact could be reduced even further – to almost nothing. Finally, there’s the fact that by growing the salad in pots, once the weather turns cold, the bowls can be moved inside and continue to grow fresh greens through the winter (albeit a little more slowly. You can trick mother nature, but only within certain limits).

The grocery store owners probably disagree, but for my family and me, this is a win-win.

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