There’s nothing easier and more fun than growing your own salad mix! Grow salads outside your back door, in a planter, raised bed, pot or directly in the ground. Whichever way you grow them, harvest as you need thereby allowing for a continuous supply of fresh salad greens.
A salad doesn’t need to consist solely of lettuce. It can be a collection of lettuce varieties, mustards, brassicas, asian greens, herbs, edible flowers and more. The more colours and textures, the more flavours you’ll have.
Check out my lettuce growing series for lettuce growing information from seed to harvest, including storage and lettuce types.
In this post, I will share the 5 best steps to your best salad harvest! By following these steps, you will ensure the freshest, crispiest salad for right now or when your ready to eat it.
Taking into account what is needed for the best salad harvest, we need to consider time of day, where you’ll place your salad leaves after harvest, how to harvest, tools required and proper storage.
These steps apply to all salad types, not just lettuce crops.
5 Steps to Your Best Salad Harvest
- Time of Day
- Bucket of Cold/Ice Water
- How to Harvest
- No Tools Required
- Proper Storage
This refers to the best time of day to harvest your salad greens. In the early morning, salad leaves are filled with water. As the sun rises and the day’s temperature climbs, water will transpire out of the leaves and into the atmosphere. The hotter the air, dryer the soil and sunnier it is, the faster that water will transpire or evaporate from the leaves. Throughout the day, the sun will cause the plant to go through photosynthesis and as the day approaches night, plant leaves will again fill with water.
To harvest your salad greens, choose early morning or the evening. At these times, salad leaves will have again filled with water, providing an optimal time to harvest crispy leaves. Don’t harvest during the day, especially when sunny, as you’ll find the leaves limp and easily wilted.
After salad leaves are harvested, they will quickly begin losing any water within their cells. To prevent this from happening, fill a large bowl or bucket with cold water. Adding a few ice cubes will help to keep the water cold on a hot day.
Have this bucket ready prior to harvest. Then as you harvest, drop each leaf into the cold water and it will help to conserve salad crispiness and prevent water evaporation from the leaves.
When harvesting lettuce, focus on the outer leaves. These are the oldest on the plant and should be removed first. They are also first to wilt, thereby attracting slugs and snails and typically becoming damaged. Removing them before they get to this stage will give you a harvest and prevent them from growing old and wilted.
The heart of the lettuce plant is the youngest. This is where new leaves will develop. Harvest until a small rosette forms in the centre, removing all larger leaves first around the outside. The small inner leaves will develop over a few days and again be ready for harvest, leaving another small rosette in the centre.
Refer to my post and YouTube video, “The Best Way to Harvest Lettuce for a Continuous Supply” for more information.
This is the easiest step in having the best salad harvest because no tools are required! Some people like to use snips and others a knife, but when harvesting individual leaves it is best to use your hands. Using your fingers, not scissors will prevent the cut ends from browning.
In addition, using your hands will allow you to carefully remove the leaves that need harvesting and prevent cutting through ones that need further growth. Also, spending time with each plant will allow you to examine if pests are present, like aphids or white fly and help you to act fast.
The only time a knife is necessary is when harvesting entire heads. Slice along the base of the lettuce plant and remove the entire head.
After you’ve harvested your salad leaves and brought them indoors, a good cleaning is next. Some people skip this step because of the time it takes to properly clean and dry the leaves, but this step is important for keeping your leaves crispy and fresh for a long time.
In my post, “1 Simple Tip for Cleaning Salad Greens“, I share the easiest way to clean and dry your salad leaves. This process brings any evaporated water back to the leaves and crisps them up. Also, skipping this step may leave dirt and debris on the leaves, along with any hidden pests like aphids, spiders and more.
After your leaves are clean and somewhat dry, the best way to store them is in plastic zipper bags.
Fill the bag with the clean salad mix to about 2/3 full and close the plastic zipper, ensuring to leave air in the bag. The air in the bag is important to prevent the leaves from sticking together and molding quickly. Store your salad bags in the fridge.
By following these 5 simple steps, you too will have the best salad harvest. Use the same approach when harvesting edible flowers or anything else you would like to add to your salad mix. Enjoy!