It’s a leafy planting day today, but it’s 38°C outside (100°F), with a dry northerly wind that has the zucchinis wilting. A lettuce has no hope.
I plant a few anyway, on the offchance, selecting varieties that are supposed to cope with hot weather like Cos and Buttercrunch. But the odds of getting any to harvest are pretty slim. Salads in summer are based on cucumber and tomatoes and basil, not lettuce and mesclun. The weather forecast is predicting 100mm of rain over the next few days though, and if that just happened to be the start of a wet summer, I’d be pleased I gambled on a few lettuces.
Today I’m planting in a seed tray, besides a few lettuces, a few radicchio, a few amaranth, and the basils (Thai, lime, and sweet). And that’s it for leafies. I shall try to keep enough water up to the mint and Vietnamese mint, and I’ll plant mustard and coriander for microgreens.
Last week I harvested mustard seed, lots of it, and coriander seed. Mustard plants grow insanely easily over winter here, and seed so prolifically that these days mine are all self seeded plants.
There’s a (very small) limit to the amount of mustard we eat as leaf – a tiny bit to heat up spinach and feta muffins or add a bit of spiciness to Saag, but that’s about it. But the seed is valuable. I make seeded or Djion mustard from it, use it in curries and dhal and pickles, and sow the seed to harvest as microgreens this time of year.
It’s a very simple planting method – a wide mouthed pot or shallow tray, filled with a mixture of compost and creek sand, sown quite thickly with seed, kept watered and shaded in the shadehouse, and harvested with scissors when the sprouts are just at the two leaf stage (two real leaves besides the first cotyledon leaves). At this stage they are a little bit spicy but not too hot, and delicious on salad sandwiches or added to a side salad or used as a garnish with egg or cheese based dishes.
The same method works for lots of seeds. The limiting factor for me is seeds I can harvest in large enough quantities, and that make delicious enough microgreens, to make it worthwhile. My favourites are amaranth, rocket and mustard. All of them seed prolifically in my garden, yielding lots more seeds than I need to save for for the next sowing.
The coriander is a similar kind of strategy but I let them grow for about three weeks. I have lots of seed, and the plants won’t survive out in the garden. So I plant them quite thickly in a pot and keep them shaded and watered in the shadehouse. They will still want to bolt this time of year anyhow because the days are still lengthening towards the summer solstice and coriander along with most leafy greens is day length sensitive. But if I plant a new batch every month and harvest them very young, I can keep coriander going through the summer. It’s way better than the hydroponic coriander in the supermarket this time of year, and there are some dishes where only coriander will do!