Lettuce and lettuce-type things are among the easiest edibles to grow in containers and small spaces, but too often we stick to unadventurous species of Butterhead and Looseleaf, ignoring the multitude of more unusual (and better looking) leaves and flowers that can be used to make a salad.
Herbs, too, are frequently seen as simply a garnish and added in minute quantities that can barely be detected – but if chosen correctly, and combined with milder flavours, I believe that they can be a main ingredient. My favourite salad ingredients, container-grown in my Hackney garden include chard, parsley, chives, golden marjoram, nasturtiums, borage, baby spinach and lovage.
The selections below are all suitable for containers, can be sown now and taste much better than an iceberg.
I recommend Real Seeds, Wild Garden Seeds and Suffolk Herbs for sourcing seeds.
Lactuca sativa var. romana “Little Leprechaun”
Levisticum officinale (lovage)
Celery-like shoots, but a milder taste. The young leaves are one of my favourite salad ingredients.
Malva sylvestris (mallow)
The young leaves and flowers can be eaten raw. This is hardly worth growing as you can find it everywhere this time of year (Hackney-dwellers, try the marshes -there’s enough to feed the borough there).
Rumex acetosa (garden sorrel)
This perennial herb is mild enough to be eaten raw as a salad leaf.
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
As the name suggests, the leaves taste of garlic and mustard, are delicious in salad if you like that sort of thing, and grow in abundance in Hackney Marshes.
Allium ursinum (wild garlic)
One of my absolute favourites, growing abundantly in British woodland in February and March. Use the leaves and flowers in salad – they taste strongly of garlic, so use in addition to a milder leaf.
Trapaeolum majus (nasturtium)
Adds colour to the smallest of garden, grows in the poorest of soils and the leaves and flowers are delicious.