I grow lots of leafy green vegetables because they are so productive, nutritious, easy to cultivate, and just plain delicious. An assortment of greens also adds a range of color, new shapes, and interesting textures to the ornamental style edible garden.
Unfortunately some of the more popular leafy greens, such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and arugula can struggle, turn bitter, or resort to bolting and splitting as temperatures rise. This year I planted a number of uncommon greens that have continued to grow comfortably; even after the summer days turned humid, hot, and steamy!
Leafy Greens that are Perfect for the Dog Days of Summer:
Malva – Maybe you’re familiar with the wild and edible weed called malva or common mallow. It has small, dark green, round shaped leaves and purple to white flowers. This cultivated variety grows much taller and larger in the garden. Domesticated malva has lighter green leaves that are huge in comparison and more succulent than their wild cousins.
Magentaspreen Goosefoot – Well at least I think that is the variety that I planted this spring. To look at it I don’t see much difference between this plant and the related Lamb’s Quarters weed that I absolutely love to eat! Maybe I had the seed mixed up… regardless it has grown well through the summer months, but I will be sure to harvest this weedy annual before it has a chance go to seed in order to keep it under control.
Amaranth – A colorful, attractive, and extremely tall (over 6 foot) upright growing plant, I did allow this one to go to seed in the garden last summer and it has returned on its own, but not uncontrollably so. Amaranth produces loads of edible leaves along with a crown of seeds/grain that is also edible and touted for its nutritional value.
Garland Chrysanthemum – This is an edible variety of chrysanthemum also known as Shingku or Chop Suey Greens. The flowers are edible too, but the greens are best when picked before the plant begins to flower. Steam the leaves, use them in soups and stir fry dishes, or add them to green salads.
Orach – I’ve been curious about this plant for a while but never tried growing it until this summer. The seeds resemble parsnip seeds and seemed a wee bit reluctant to germinate. The plants are unusual, attractive, and available in various shades and colors. I wasn’t as impressed with this one but it has survived and continued to grow through the summer heat without any special attention.
Seaweed Mustard – A rather strange plant; seaweed mustard is promoted as one of the most nutritious of cultivated plants… and it had better be, because there really isn’t much to this one. The frilly, stick-like leaves of this Asian variety of greens are definitely different than anything else growing in the garden but they aren’t exactly going to fill a salad bowl come harvest time.
Other Leafy Greens to Cultivate During the Summer Months
I had hoped to share some photos and impressions of Red Aztec Spinach but the seed apparently failed to germinate, ditto for the Alexanders that I wanted to trial this summer. I’ll try again to grow Red Aztec Spinach, which isn’t a spinach at all and displays a growth habit similar to amaranth and a leaf form closer to that of lambs quarter.
A couple other varieties of greens that performed well in the garden this summer included an open pollinated Senposai and an Asian Mispoona, both from Fedco Seeds. While you can also always count on Swiss Chards and collards to take the heat and keep on producing there are many other choices that you can add to the rotation for a continuous harvest of home grown summer greens.
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