Salad in a pot

Perk up your salads with these easy-to-grow crops

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Pretty leaves

OAKLEAFS. Though all loose-leaf lettuces can be grown as cutting lettuces, oakleaf varieties are particularly popular because of their distinctive leaf shapes, buttery textures, and sweet flavor. Many are pretty, too, with leaf colors that spark up the greens: yellow-green varieties such as 'Salad Bowl' and 'Pom Pom', bronzy types like 'Red Sails' and 'Cocarde', and real reds like 'Red Oakleaf', 'Red Rebosa', and 'New Red Fire'.

ROMAINES. Choices include 'Deer Tongue', an heirloom variety with thick, succulent lime green leaves; 'Cimarron', a red-shaded romaine; and 'Freckles', a green romaine with dark red speckles and splotches.

'LOLLO ROSSO' TYPES. These are frilly-leafed lettuces, often used as a garnish in restaurants. Leaves of the regular variety are chartreuse with burgundy edges. 'Lovina', an improved selection, has mostly red leaves and is slower to bolt.

Peppery partners

ARUGULA. The favorite gourmet green at restaurants. Extremely easy to grow. Plants bolt quickly, too, so sow seeds in small batches every few weeks.

MUSTARD. Many varieties; all usually taste pleasant in salads if harvested young. 'Red Giant' is particularly mild and has the additional advantage of burgundy-tinted leaves.

ITALIAN DANDELION. Tastes pleasantly bitter, like endive or chicory, but requires only a fraction of the space. Harvest when leaves are 3 to 4 inches tall; later, they're too tough for salad.

MOUNTAIN CRESS (also known as peppergrass or garden cress). Pleasantly piquant. A quick crop; you can harvest leaves in 10 to 14 days. Sow seeds frequently in small batches.

'WRINKLED, CRINKLED, CRUMPLED CRESS'. A cross between mountain cress and broadleaf cress, which is a mustard- family green. Adds interesting texture as well as flavor to salads.

LEEKS AND ONIONS. When harvested young, leaves are tender and mild-tasting.

NASTURTIUMS. Both flowers and leaves are edible and mildly peppery. 'Empress of India', a scarlet-flowered variety with slightly bluish green leaves, is especially handsome.

Where to buy seed

Plants of some greens mentioned at left, such as arugula, mustard, and 'Red Sails' lettuce, are available in cell-packs at garden centers. Seeds of other varieties are available by mail from the following sources.

Nichols Garden Nursery, 1190 N. Pacific Hwy., Albany, OR 97321; (541) 928-9280 or www.gardennursery.com. Sells 'Cimarron', 'Deer Tongue', 'Empress of India' nasturtiums, 'Lovina', 'Red Rebosa', 'Red Sails', 'Salad Bowl'.

Shepherd's Garden Seeds, 30 Irene St., Torrington, CT 06790; (860) 482-3638 or www.shepherdseeds.com. Sells 'Cocarde', 'Deer Tongue', 'Freckles', 'Red Oakleaf,' 'Wrinkled, Crinkled, Crumpled Cress'.

Territorial Seed Company, Box 157, Cottage Grove, OR 97424; (541) 942-9547 or www.territorial-seed.com. Sells seed of 'Catalogna Frastagli' Italian dandelion, 'New Red Fire', 'Pom Pom', 'Red Giant' mustard.

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