Five Unexpected Ways to Pep Up Your Summer Greens

Spice Acres farm manager Andrea Heim is a proud vegetarian, but she remembers absolutely hating salads as a child.

“All I got was an iceberg wedge,” she recalls. “That’s why some people hate salads and don’t eat them. But if I got an arugula salads with goat cheese and roasted beets, I’d be much more eager to eat a salad.”

These days Heim spends part of her working time in the farm’s sweltering greenhouse cultivating vegetables and greens that can break the traditional salad’s monotony. Some are spicy and others are colorful, but each can be grown easily at home or in your backyard.

“This is the fun stuff, man,” Heim exclaims. “This is what it’s about.”

Here are five unexpected greens that are sure to pep up your salad this summer and beyond.

Microgreens

Spicy Micro Mix

Spicy Micro Mix

Microgreen medleys work wonders in any salad, and can be combined to make their own unique dish. Spice chefs also use them as garnishes in soups and meat entrees.

Spice Acres’ spicy mix, the more colorful of the two medleys they grow, comprises several mustard greens with varying textures and shapes, including red and garnet greens. Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the name of this micro mix. It contains a wasabi-flavored finish that lingers just enough to widen your eyes and satisfy your palate.

The mild mix is visually greener and features kale, cabbage, mizuna, and kohlrabi. Kohlrabi’s cabbage flavor stands out a bit more than the other greens. Like its spicy companion, the mild mix is easily grown indoors and will be ready for harvest after about two weeks, when the true leaves begin to appear.

Recipe: Micro & Miso

Top a spicy mix salad with this citrus-miso vinaigrette from Spice chef Josh Woo
1 tablespoon Miso
2 teaspoons rice wine vinaigrette
2 tablespoons blended oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons chopped ginger
Sriracha to taste, if you’re into it.
Whisk the ingredients together or mix in a blender.

Pea Shoots

A pea shoot is pretty much what it sounds like — a green that grows or shoots up through a pea. Alone, a shoot will grow out of the pea as a leafy green that resembles spinach, but planted together, the shoots’ tiny tendrils tend to twist and tangle with one another into a clump.

There’s absolutely no mistaking the taste: it’s the same flavor that bursts through the tiny sweet peas your mother served you, just in leafy form. Creating a salad with pea shoots as the star can be overwhelming, but sprinkling a few into your bowl of lettuce adds enough sweetness and vitamins to boost your salad’s flavor profile.

Heim’s suggestion: Keep things simple by mixing some pea shoots into a blend of lettuce, radishes and turnips.

Buckwheat

Buckwheat

Buckwheat

Buckwheat is the easiest to grow of the bunch. If you don’t have the space to grow lettuce, you can plant buckwheat seeds and have a salad addition or burger topping within a week.

Like pea shoots and microgreens, buckwheat is best consumed raw. It’s not the most flavorful green — “It just tastes green,” Heim says. “That’s the best way to describe it.” But add it your favorite green salad and you’ll pick up plenty of additional protein.

Sunflower Shoots

Much like pea shoots, sunflower shoots will emerge from sunflower seeds in about two weeks or less. They taste like a happy marriage between a pack of sunflower seeds and a bowl of fresh lettuce. Their texture is surprisingly soft, making for the variance that many salads are missing.

Recipe remix: Take a common broccoli salad recipe — broccoli, red onion, bacon, raisins, mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, and sunflower seeds — but substitute shoots for the seeds.

Bull’s Blood Beets

Bull's Blood Beets

Bull’s Blood Beets

Fear not, would-be matadors: This green is not as brutal as it sounds. “Bull’s Blood seeds don’t make good beets, but they make really good beet greens,” the leafy tops of the root, Heim said.

That’s helpful if you’re one of the many people who believe beets taste like dirt, but would like the iron and other nutrients they provide. If you want to brighten up your salad or wow your guests with a vibrant color, Bull’s Blood beet is the green for you.