Grow Your Salad Greens

Have you planted any seeds? You still have time to plant some tasty leafy greens, and you can grow them in a flower pot or a garden bed.

Leafy greens include lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kale and arugula. They are easy to grow, prepare and provide a wide variety of nutrients.


Leafy greens are easy to grow for beginning gardeners. These crops can grow in light shade to full sun in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Lettuce is planted as a cool season crop in early spring or late summer. It will “bolt” (go to seed) in the summer heat, so pick it often.

Although some leafy greens (such as kale and Swiss chard) take significant space, some leafy greens can be grown in small areas and even containers. Lettuce can be harvested at any time that leaves are present, however small baby leaves are more tender. You also can plant more than one crop of greens during the growing season.


To clean leafy greens, rinse them in cool running water. Sometimes soil can be difficult to remove, place the leafy greens in a bowl of cool water and allow them to sit for a couple of minutes to loosen the soil. Rinse and remove excess moisture by blotting the lettuce with a clean paper towel or by placing the greens in a salad spinner.


Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, can be frozen, however their structures are altered during the freezing process and should not be used in salads. Blanch greens (such as spinach) in boiling water for 2 minutes, then cool, drain and package, leaving ½-inch headspace. Be sure to label with contents and date. Previously frozen green leafy vegetables may be used in soup, casseroles, stir fries and smoothies. Frozen leafy green vegetables are best if used within 6 months of freezing.


Loose-leaf Green Lettuce Salad for One

2 tsp. mild-flavored vegetable oil, such as canola oil
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
½ tsp. sugar
2 c. loose-leaf lettuce, rinsed thoroughly and drained

Optional add-ins: sliced radishes, finely sliced apples, mandarin oranges, cranberries, chopped pecans

Whisk oil, vinegar and sugar together in a small bowl. Toss with the greens.

Makes one serving. Each serving has 110 calories, 9 g fat, 1 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber and 10 mg sodium.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a professor and food and nutrition specialist with the NDSU Extension Service.