By William Terry Kelley
University of Georgia
Adding some novel vegetables to your garden may make your salads tastier and more healthful, too.
Here are a number of salad crops gardeners can grow in most Georgia gardens at some point in the year. They're basically cool-season crops, although they may not stand hard freezes.
Arugula, or rocket or roquette, is a leafy green that looks a lot like radish leaves. It's tender and has a slightly bitter, mustard-like flavor. Arugula can be used as a flavoring ingredient in soups and vegetable dishes and makes your salad a bit zestier, too.
It can be grown much in the same way as leaf lettuce, with plants 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 18 to 24 inches apart.
Bok choy, or pak choi, is a Chinese cabbage related to broccoli, cauliflower and chard. It has wide, white stalks that lead to a wide, dark green leaf. It can be stir fried, cooked in soup, eaten raw in salads or cooked like spinach.
Bok choy can be grown as you would grow broccoli or cabbage. You can grow Napa types in the same way, but they have a leafier, tighter head with crinkled leaves and a wide, white midrib.
Escarole, endive and radicchio are types of chicory that form a green (or red), loose-leaf head. Escarole has a broader leaf than endive. Endive has ragged leaves that curl at the end. The center is mild and is yellow-white, while the outer leaves are more bitter. Radicchio is shaped like cabbage with shiny, smooth, red leaves with a white midrib.
These can all be used in salads or cooked in other dishes. They can be grown in the garden in the same manner as lettuce, allowing 10 to 12 inches between plants. They add flavor and texture to salads.
Cilantro, or Chinese parsley, is a type of coriander and looks like parsley with broader leaf tops. It's a popular ingredient in Mexican and Chinese dishes. With a pungent, musty, spicy and aromatic flavor, it can be used in stir fry, salsa, salads, stews, meats, soups and pickles. You can grow it in the garden much like regular parsley.
Red-leaf and green-leaf lettuces are loose-leaf types that don't form heads. They may range from light to dark green, red and bronze. Grow them just like other leaf lettuces. The leaves may be ruffled or smooth. They can add color and texture to salads. Or use them in sandwiches or as garnishes.
Romaine lettuce, or Cos lettuce, is an upright type with a loose head of cupped leaves and a distinctive midrib. Plant it in rows 12 to 14 inches apart with 8 to 12 inches between plants.
Romaine has very big, crunchy leaves that are more blanched toward the heart of the plant. Use it in any salad -- many salads you order in restaurants contain Romaine lettuce. Grow romaine lettuce like other lettuces, but space it a little farther apart.
Swiss chard and beet greens both belong to the same family, except chard lacks the fleshy root the beet has. Chard has large, fleshy, dark green (or red) leaves with fleshy, white stalks. Grow chard and beet greens as you do common garden beets. Use chard in salads, stuffings and egg dishes and cook it as a vegetable.
Beet greens are simply harvested from the top of the plants. If you don't want to harvest the beet you can plant them closer together.
(Terry Kelley is an Extension Service horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
(Terry Kelley is a former University of Georgia Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)