Salad Days


…My salad days,

When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…


William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra

It’s going to be one of those weeks when I have no time to do anything other than work, eat and sleep. So thank heavens for the quick, easy crops that are coming thick and fast from our new vegetable garden. They require no preparation other than a wash under the tap and help me feel healthy and wholesome after a day dining on uninspiring, packaged sandwiches.

Tomatoes are ripening just fast enough for me to harvest a few glowing fruit each evening. They are sweet, juicy and nicely tart, just as they should be.

The ripening fruit of tomato 'Sweet Million'

The ripening fruit of cherry tomato ‘Sweet Million’

Herbs are growing at a tremendous rate of knots. Parsley is lush and glossy green, tarragon (my favourite herb of all) in the rudest of health and chives are fine and tender. We are adding them to curries, pasta dishes and salads in quantities that would be prohibitively expensive if bought from a supermarket.

A fine bunch of happy herbs

A fine bunch of happy herbs

Purchased at Hampton Court Flower Show, a single plant of shiso (Perilla frutescens var. crispa) is forming a pretty, purple-leaved bush with fragrant, tasty leaves. It is used in Japan for pickling plums; we use it as an attractive ingredient in salads when the leaves are very young.

Known as shiso, or 'beefsteak plant', Perilla frutescens var. crispa makes an unusual addition to salads and stir-fries.

Known as shiso, or ‘beefsteak plant’, Perilla frutescens var. crispa makes an unusual addition to salads and stir-fries.

It’s hard to believe that all of these fruits, leaves and herbs were planted just seven weeks ago. A warm July followed by a damp August has certainly helped (although not the courgettes which are rotting) and we are already planting more lettuce and radishes to last us into autumn. Such instant gratification is welcome in a world where we are all so short of time, worth every penny for the superior flavour and there’s no need for waste. These really are our salad days.

Rocketing rocket and marauding mustards

Rocketing rocket and marauding mustard