Homestead Salad

Growing salad at Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, Maine
fresh homestead salad! chicory, winter lettuce mix, and the odd bit of wild sorrel…

We have a funny relationship with lettuce!

We really like salads, but our Maine farm season doesn’t seem to lend itself to growing lettuce super-easily.

Late frosts bite tender seedlings. Cool springs stunt growth and then dry summers send them straight to bolting.

We attack this challenge with a broad variety of methods.

Of course, each year we work to improve our soil and our watering in an attempt to do a better job with our regular lettuce crop.

A close-up of red lettuce at Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, Maine
this year’s red oak-leaf lettuce hopefuls…
A close-up of red lettuce at Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, Maine
…intermixed with wild sorrel, a living mulch that also happens to be a refreshing, lemony snack itself!

But we also try to plant lots of non-traditional, perennial, or low-maintenance lettuces, like nasturtium and chicory and New Zealand spinach.

Chicory is a delicious, tangy little lettuce. It’s very cold-hardy and all of last year’s plants came back, overwintering under a heavy mulch. When it eventually bolts, it produces these gorgeous blue flowers on stalks as tall as I am!

A close-up of chicory at Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, Maine
A close-up of chicory at Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, Maine
A close-up of chicory at Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, Maine

We should also be able to harvest the roots sometimes and dry-and-grind them for coffee – you know, chicory, like the kind they add to New Orleans-style coffee? We dry-and-grind coffee from dandelion roots already and look forward to trying it with chicory roots, as well.

Nasturtiums form little round leaves that look like lily-pads. They are good in salads and can even be used to make wraps. The tropical-orange flowers look like hummingbirds, attract hummingbirds, and are a colorful, spicy addition to soups, salads, and anything-else-you-can-think-of.

A close-up of nasturtium at Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, Maine
A close-up of nasturtium at Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, Maine
Growing salad at Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, Maine
bonus lettuces, in the process of bolting

Once established, they should grow like weeds…at least, that’s what we hope!

And then, we let lots of our lettuces go to seed.

Instead of harvesting them as heads-of-lettuce, we just keep pinching leaves individually as they slowly develop into stalks and ultimately flower and form seedheads.

We still get our salads, but we also get extra seed, some of which we will collect and some of which will self-sow.

Growing salad at Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, Maine
lettuce blossom

These seeds often sprout in unexpected places, giving us a bonus crop of random lettuces scattered throughout the farm to supplement what may have gone wrong in our assigned lettuce-bed!

Trial and error is a way of life. Doing all you can to see what bears fruit is a way of life. Sowing faithfully and diligently, because only the Lord knows what will return a harvest, is a way of life.

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

(Ecclesiastes 11:1, KJV)

It’s all in a day’s work on the homestead, doing all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, and giving thanks to God the Father by Him!

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

(Galatians 6:9, KJV)

Shop hand-crafted woodenware, ready for your own version of homestead salad!

by Sydney Michalski

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