Corn salads, also known as Lambs Lettuce or Mâche are unusual salad crops because they are very cold hardy and grow best during the autumn and winter. They can be picked outdoors between November and January when home-grown salading are distinctly rare.
'Vit' is an easy to grow, vigorous variety for spring and autumn crops. This large seeded, French variety is mildew-resistant with long, oval, glossy green leaves which form a heavy bunch, They have a tender, delicate nutty, minty flavour. A staple ingredient for winter salads, they can also be cooked like spinach. An excellent winter gap filler, both in the vegetable garden and at the dining table.
In France this humble plant is called la mâche and enjoys an elevated gourmet status. It graces bistro menus and markets alike.
Although purists will argue that mâche tastes best right from the garden, try it dressed with little more than a light drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, or serve in a simple salad with mushrooms and red onion. Traditionally, though, the French prefer la mâche with cooked beets and walnuts. Whatever your preference, once you’ve tried it, this easy-to-grow gourmet green will become a welcome regular in your winter garden.
Late summer to late autumn
Sow successionally at fortnightly intervals from late summer to late autumn once temperatures begin to drop. The most common method of cultivation is to broadcast the seed on a plot of well-prepared ground; otherwise they can be sown in rows 13mm (0.5in) deep and 15cm (6in) apart. Cover seeds with 3mm (1/8in) fine soil.
If individual plants are placed about 15cm (6in) apart, rather than planting them by broadcasting the seed, you will get large and bushy salad greens of the most succulent texture.
Thin to 15-20cm (6 to 8in) apart in rows when the plants are 5cm (2in) tall. Use the thinnings in the kitchen and leave plants at 4-6in (10-15cm) spacings to mature.
Allow one to two weeks for germination, depending upon weather and soil warmth. Guard against birds and slugs at the early stages.
By October, young plants should be well established and able to survive the rigors of winter. The salad then can be harvested all winter long.
Corn salad will grow in nearly all soils and situations but enjoys rich moist soil. Water the young plants during dry spells and ensure that weeds do not swamp the plant.
This winter hardy plant should be lightly mulched during very severe cold weather. If the flavour ever turns a little bitter, blanch the leaves before the next picking by covering the plants with a box or pot for a few days before harvesting.
Tempting as it may be, do not try and grow as a summer salad crop as the warmer temperatures invariably cause this to run to seed very quickly.
30-60 days from Sowing
Robust growth in good conditions provides the first bowlful of mâche thinnings by late October. Corn salad is ready to use when 3-4 leaves have developed, Harvest the outer leaves as needed for use in salads or cooked like spinach. Harvest with a small sharp knife. Grasp the plant and cut near the base for whole rosettes, or an inch or two higher for cut-and-come-again leaves. If you cut just some of the leaves mâche will keep growing and give you another cutting. It is at its best if gathered before flowers appear.
In the kitchen wash the leaves thoroughly to remove grit. Use them as a substitute for lettuce or spinach. Because of its nutty flavor, try using cold-pressed peanut oil or a sesame oil, or even pricey hazelnut oil in any dressing you prepare. Mâche stores well for up to two weeks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Wash it just before serving.
Like other formerly foraged greens, it has many nutrients, including three times as much Vitamin C as lettuce, beta-carotene, B6, B9, Vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids, it is also a significant source of iron – it contains 1/3 more iron than spinach!
Nomenclature: The name corn salad comes from the fact that it was commonly found growing wild in wheat fields and in England wheat was commonly referred to as corn.
Corn salad was originally collected from the wild by European peasants. It was not until the early 1800s when the royal gardener of King Louis XIV, de la Quintinie, introduced it to the world, that people began to cultivate it in gardens.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2.5 grams Average Seed Count 1,000 Seeds Common Name Mâche, Lambs Tongue Other Common Names Green corn salad, Field lettuce, Field salad Family Valerianaceae Genus Valerianella Species locusta Cultivar Vit Hardiness Hardy Annual Position Corn salad will grow in nearly all soils and situations but enjoys rich moist soil. Soil Any but prefers rich moist soil. Time to Sow From late summer to late autumn once temperatures begin to drop Germination Allow one to two weeks for germination, depending upon weather and soil warmth. Harvest 30-60 days from sowing Time to Harvest Corn salad is ready to use when 3-4 leaves have developed,