Mesclun
grow your own mesclun salad green indoors or out
by Ruth S. Foster

You can actually grow some crops all year round. One is mesclun, which is a mixture of many varieties of greens that are harvested when they're very small and delicate. Europeans have used them for years, and now they've become popular in America too. The nice thing about these vegetables is that they grow in cool weather and without full, summer sunlight, which makes them a perfect crop to sow in early spring and also in late summer in cool climates. They can be grown all winter in warm areas. Most can stand some light frost. Mesclun also can be grown indoors in winter on a sunny windowsill or under lights, though the leaves will be thinner and more delicate.

Harvest They're ready to harvest with scissors when about 2 to 3 inches tall. Just cut and pop into the salad bowl. Some varieties will resprout from the cut stems or the soil may be loosened and more seeds planted.

Sow Sow seeds very thickly in a well prepared seed bed. Most seeds sprout in a week to 10 days, particularly if they're soaked for a day before planting. A warm seed bed also hastens germination. To protect the bed until they sprout, cover it with a sheet of damp newspaper, but look underneath each morning and remove when the tiny green heads poke through. Keep the bed moist with a sprinkle of water morning and evening until the seedlings become well established.

Fertilize Give liquid fertilizer weekly to speed up the harvest, especially if grown indoors. A plastic cover creating a mini-greenhouse helps too. (Or make one from a clear plastic dry cleaner's bag supported on opened coat hangers.) And you can be sure there have been no pesticides, no dirty water and no animal residues contaminating the harvest you grow yourself.

Mesclun seed mixtures include tangy bitter arugula, several varieties of chicory, many lettuces, mache, cress and minutina. Also consider adding fast growing mustard greens, looseleaf lettuces, spinach, and even small pea shoots. Though many of these plants take a long time to become big, mature vegetables, the young seedlings provide a faster, very tasty harvest for salads.