|L to R: spinach, red lettuce, arugula... when they were babies|
There is something so satisfying about wanting salad for dinner and being able to just go out the back door and "harvest" some. Which is exactly what I did tonight... grabbed my trusty (ahem... also, maybe a little rusty) kitchen scissors and a plastic colander and went outside to get dinner.
If you are going to grow your own lettuce, spinach, etc., I think a pretty essential item for your kitchen would be a salad spinner. It sounds, at first, like one of those kitchen gadgets that no one could possibly need (see "avocado slicer," "quesadilla maker," etc.). However, the fact of the matter is that you need an effective way of giving these leaves from your backyard a thorough cleansing. They are dirty. I actually have a salad spinner that I got many years ago for under $5. It is high time to upgrade to a better model, but tough when this little guy still does the job.
The salad spinner is a strainer that sits inside a bowl. When you put on the lid, it spins the salad dry (well, actually you spin it), sending the excess water into the bowl. When you bring in absolutely filthy, dirt-covered salad from your backyard garden, I find it's best to fill the whole thing with water so the salad is immersed... then get your hand in there and shake it around a little bit before letting it sit a few minutes. A lot of dirt and grit will sink to the bottom. Empty, rinse, and repeat.
Tonight, I did this literally 7 times.
The salad was tasty, though. It included some red lettuce, arugula, and basil. My husband and I both admitted to each other that we don't really like the arugula... it has a very strong flavor (stronger than arugula I have bought at the store or eaten in restaurants) - I am not sure if that is the variety or because it is home grown or because I did not pick it soon enough... but I probably won't devote any more garden space to it.
We also dressed our salad up with a few additions, none of them home grown but later in the summer we will have our own tomatoes (as of this writing, I'm not planning on raising chickens and am unaware of any way to grow avocados in Ohio...)
If you would like to try your hand at growing a salad in your backyard, it's not too late! Many of these leafy vegetables are sensitive to heat, but you can purchase "heat resistant" varieties (that is the red lettuce I am growing - it will say so right on the front of the seed package) that will flourish throughout the summer. Lettuce does not need a lot of space - it barely has roots. It would be a perfect crop to try in one of those long window boxes (whether or not it is actually attached to a window... I am sure you could set it just about anywhere). It is also a good crop to grow continuously... laying another row of seeds every few weeks so you'll have more on the way once you eat it. Give it a try!