Monday, April 12, 2010
There is always something interesting growing in the yard to add to a salad.
Lately, one of the featured items has been calendula flowers. It's easy to pluck out the petals and sprinkle them into the bowl, where the little orange flecks make the various hues of green seem greener and more variegated. They don't contribute a noticeable flavor, but add eye appeal, and are reputed to have value as a medicinal herb with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Another salad accoutrement free for the picking are the blossoms and blades of the wild onion. The little white flowers add color and they both add a subtle oniony tang, just the right amount for a hyper-sensitive person like myself who weeps when there are raw onions anywhere on the block, or so it seems. As the plants mature, the blossoms stop being delectable when hard seed pods form at their base, but the tender tips of the blades are still quite good.
These flowers and seed pods on the miner's lettuce signal that their season of perking up our salads is about over. It's been a long run, but now I will stand back and let them sow seeds for next year. The pods are forming along this stalk, like tiny green coin purses filled with a wealth of even tinier round black seeds.
Even though I regret seeing the miner's lettuce go to seed, it's a fascinating process. First the heart shaped leaves become round -- I have no idea how they manage to do it. Then they launch a sub-leaf from the center of the main leaf. This smaller version of themselves hosts the flower stalk, along which the seed pods will eventually form.
The mainstay components and added features of our salads vary from week to week and month to month. Right now the miner's lettuce, arugula, cilantro, spinach, and Black Seeded Simpson lettuce are winding down and the Red Lollo Antago lettuce is long gone. But there is plenty of Forellenschluss and Bronze Arrow lettuce, along with whatever accoutrements can be found here and there.