Salad Days: “Salad days” is a Shakespearean idiomatic expression meaning a youthful time, accompanied by the inexperience, enthusiasm, idealism, innocence, or indiscretion that one associates with a young person (Wikipedia).
What makes a salad? If you grew up in my house, almost anything. All the veggies, sure, but in the 1980’s with the heyday of salad bars, for me it also sometimes meant cottage cheese with shredded cheese, ranch dressing and croutons on top. There’s ambrosia filled with marshmallows. Strawberry Pretzel Salad. Or the classic half of a canned pear with a dollop of mayo, shredded cheddar and half of a maraschino cherry. In looking for recipes, I even learned about Snickers salad. Salads can be a little bit of anything thrown together, it seems.
Salad. One of the most delightful parts of farming so far has been walking out to the field, seeing what might be ready, harvesting it, and making it into a salad. Most of what we’ve pulled out so far is lettuce. I made a huge salad with our tender buttercrunch lettuce, then topped it with extras from the grocery: fresh mozzarella pearls and pomegranate seeds. The lettuce was the star and so deeply satisfying to savor. A hint of bitterness. Little touches of wilt that I knew had come from that one night of hard freeze. Our history in a bowl and I ate it right up.
The next week, it was more of our buttercrunch lettuce topped with grocery goodies: celery, tomatoes, carrots, cheese, and dressing. Delicious.
The new challenge was the kale I cut. Looking around, I had to see what ingredients we had on hand that would match up with it. We were working from a limited stock, but I came up with a kale salad with fresh Georgia satsumas (purchased out of curiosity from the Peach Truck), mozzarella, and a lemon vinaigrette. It was good, but had me dreaming of what some sunflower seeds and goat cheese would have added.
It’s a shift in thinking from the grocery store to the garden, from the food mart to the farmer’s market. To trust what the earth will provide to lead what you eat, and build the rest of your food around it. We are transitioning to being more self-reliant and making do with what we have invested in the ground. Betting on ourselves nutritionally, little by little.
For a person who goes to the store with a list and has every ingredient on hand, it’s a lesson in adaptability. A beautiful one. One that appreciates what the earth can give back for our efforts.
Our youthful salad days of gardening, growing, and enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of our efforts have been sweet indeed. Figuring out which direction to grow next is the exciting challenge.