Simon says it’s ‘time to dress for summer’ and gives us his favourite salad dressing . Can’t argue with the great Simon Wright can I? Well, actually, I’d like to make a case for going totally naked. I don’t do it every day, sometimes I fancy a pinch of this or a drop of that, but quite often I find the salad leaves I pick and combine are so worth tasting and testing in different combinations and mouthfuls, that I don’t want every mouthful to just taste of the dressing I’ve slapped on. If you’ve got time you can try all the different leaves one at a time – a spicy one followed by a calmer one, followed by a crunchy one, followed by a flower (I’m sure you get the idea), or maybe different couplings etc. It’s also a good way to slow down your eating and savour things a little more, not to mention digest a little better. And all the better to tell me if you agree I’ve left the stalk on the right things.
If you’re a regular Liliwen Herbs’ Gourmet Salad eater then you’ll probably know the leaf that we’ve seen a lot of until just lately with a lot of juicy stalk and a sort of umbrella head, which has recently been wearing a few very tiny white flowers. This is called by various names: Winter Purslane and Miner’s Lettuce among them. It’s not unusual for me to leave 4 inches of stalk on those leaves (about 10cm in new money), because they are so succulent. But it took me a little while to get brave enough to do that, largely because so many other stalks of leaves I grow are actually quite a bit tougher and less palatable. But I kept getting really good feedback (is there a better word than that, which doesn’t remind me of whiny speakers?) from customers that people loved the stalks and even the inelegant act of eating them from the shoot end to the leaf, like Ermintrude the cow (a 1970s childhood reference for which I won’t apologise). They also have a very mild and pleasant flavour that would be hard to register doused in dressing.
But … if you like a little punch with your salad then, before you reach for the vinaigrette, watch out for the flowers coming any minute now – this very week I’ll be popping in some bright and cheery orange, red and yellow Nasturtiums and some dreamy purple Chive flowers. Nasturtiums are a little peppery, perhaps a little cabbagey (definitely need a better word!) and Chive flowers have the kind of allium zing you might imagine – if you feel like fancying up your or someone else’s plate, take a pair of scissors to the whole Chive flower head and snip all the individual flowerlets (?) off and distribute through the leaf mix before serving. Alternatively munch the whole uncut Chive flower in one go – I challenge you not to exclaim loudly straight afterwards! Mind you, the most powerful leaf I’ve tried to date was actually today when I was browsing my tunnels (as one does) and picked an individual leaf of something that looks like a small very curly Kale, o’r enw Golden Frill. I actually had to exert extreme willpower to finish chewing this leaf, whilst my eyes watered and I snorted attractively, (but refused to spit it out like the stubborn Taurus I am). And it looks so sweet and pretty, with such an innocuous name. Maybe I’ll keep that one for stir-fries from now on. Or just sprinkle a few through my salad mixes to give you the odd surprise!
So, why not try a little naked salad next time and let me know what you think?
p.s. told you I was an obsessive
p.p.s. spot the welsh phrase?