The 5 Best Autumn Salad Leaves – Diary of a Rocket Gardener

I thought I’d do a piece on this as it’s such a joy to have a good supply of punchy salad leaves during winter. For me, they are an essential, and I bung a whole load on my plate with many a jacket potato at lunchtime, and they’re so good alongside lasagne and pasta dishes. I have grown ALL the winter salad leaves that Rocket Gardens offer, several times, and these really are my favourites, and the ones I choose each year:

  1. Green Mizuna – I prefer this to Wild Rocket for winter growing, because it’s a bit tougher and seems to grow better (I find rocket stays fairly small until early spring when it suddenly perks up.) I grow mine outside and they do really well every year. They normally bolt in March/April, but I’ll be picking it quite happily from mid-November so it lasts a long time. I’d say a pack of ten plants is perfect as you can harvest regularly from each plant and get a good handful once or twice a week. The flavour is a little milder, but it’s still peppery and punchy and delicious.
  2. Frills Mustard – This is my favourite of the mustard leaves, I think because of it’s shape which means you never get too much of it in one mouthful and it never gets overpowering. I also love it because I have never, ever found a slug or a snail in it (so I don’t even bother to wash it) – I grow mine outside, and can cut from each plant twice a week and they keep going to April/May usually. A pack of ten plants is perfect for me to feed myself and friends/family a couple of times a week.
  3. Land Cress – If you haven’t yet discovered this, then please try it! It tastes almost exactly like watercress and I love it. Such great flavour. Again, I grow mine outside and have no problems with it, even when it has snowed. It’s a tough old plant! I pick a few leaves from each plant on a weekly basis, and use it to add a bit of a kick to other leaves. A pack of ten is more than enough, and it usually lasts until April when it starts to form little flowers and the leaves get a bit tough.
  4. Endives – I surprised myself by liking endives so much. I find them a bit uninspiring in the summer when there are so many different lettuces, but in the winter, they’re an absolute winner. I love the crunch of the leaves. I find they do better than the winter lettuces (which I tend to grow in the greenhouse) but provide much the same flavour and texture. They last well outside through light frosts, hail and withstand a lot of rain. With a pack of ten plants, I’m able to bulk out a decent salad a couple of times a week – I’d say it is perfect if you’re feeding a family, or if you have friends over regularly for dinner etc. I’m trying to remember when I stop using them, and I think it is in March when the leaves start to wither a bit after any snow/hard frosts. I’m sure if you grew them under cover they would last longer again.
  5. Winter Purslane – I wasn’t too sure of this the first year or two, but then I decided to grow more of it and opted for two packs of ten plants and that was a bit of a game changer because I was able to harvest so much more of it. The flavour is a lot like baby spinach, and I really like how it can soften a salad when you don’t want the main dish to be overpowered – for me, it is the perfect one for lasagnes. It’s not quite as hardy as some of the other leaves, so if you can find a sheltered spot that’s not as exposed to harsh winter weather that would be good, or cover with fleece (or grow in a greenhouse). It starts flowering in late winter, for me in February, but up until then there are loads of leaves coming through.

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