Of all the crops we grow at Good Heart Farmstead, mesclun mix is the heart of our farm.
We call the salad greens that make up our mesclun mix ‘gateway vegetables’—because even if you’re a meat and potatoes kind of person, you probably have a salad with dinner.
Think you don’t like radishes? Oops, I just slipped some in your salad, and they’re dancing around with the cucumbers waiting to delight you ?
In all seriousness, I believe everyone should try their hand at growing greens. Salad is the epitome of fresh, and it doesn’t get fresher than harvesting leaves just before dinner.
If you go to the store to buy greens, you’ll likely see a variety of different mixes: spring mix, spicy mix, lettuce mix, mesclun mix, and so on. So what exactly is mesclun?
Mesclun is a mix of baby greens eaten together, and typically includes lettuces, mustards and Asian greens.
As farmers there are a few standout reasons we love growing it:
Mesclun mix is our main wholesale crop, and in the summer we harvest and sell around 300 lbs a week. I know 300 lbs of mesclun weighs the same as 300 lbs of carrots, but the price point of each is vary widely. Which brings me to the next reason…
We grow on only 1 acre, and this forces us to be efficient and look closely at the profitability of each crop. Organic mesclun mix retails for $12.00/lb, whereas organic carrots range between $2.00-3.50/lb.
Growing on 1 acre also means that we don’t have big equipment to mechanically harvest root crops. We’re more of a market garden, and we’ve found that harvesting and transporting greens is easier on our bodies.
One of the benefits of farming and gardening is getting to be outside, close to the beauty of the fields. Of all the crops we grow, there’s nothing so beautiful as rows of greens (or reds or purples, as mesclun has a variety of colors).
Even if you’re not selling it, you should still grow mesclun mix. Here’s why:
You can save a whole lot of money
As I said, mesclun mix retails for $12/lb. If you eat salad every day (or twice a day, as I typically do in the summer), that adds up! Put your money into seeds instead, and grow your own.
You can make your own mix
I personally love a spicy kick to my mesclun mix, and add in hot greens like wrinkled crinkled crumpled cress and ruby streaks. But maybe you don’t. Growing your own allows you to play with the ingredients and come up with a mix that you love best.
Beautiful gardens are joyful places! This is how gardens do more than feed your body, they feed your soul, too. Growing joy is at the root of everything I do—don’t you want an extra dose of beauty and joy in your garden and life?
How To Grow Great Mesclun Mix
Choose your varieties
As I said, one of the benefits of growing your own mesclun mix is being able to create your own mix. A good mesclun mix will have loft, varied textures and colors, and varied tastes from sweet to bitter to spicy.
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
You don’t need to grow all of these at once—I recommend trying one or two from each category.
Green Wave – medium
Ruby Streaks – spicy
Mizuna – mildly spicy
Purple Mizuna – mildly spicy
White Stemmed Pac Choi
Astro Arugula – medium spicy
Esme Arugula – medium spicy
Wrinkled Crinkled Cress – spicy
SPINACH & KALE:
Red Russian Kale
Escalade F1 Spinach
The most important thing when growing greens is to start with clean garden beds.
There’s nothing more tedious than having to pull weeds that have sprouted up among the baby greens, so start by scuffling the entire bed to remove any weeds. Depending on your soil, add a layer of compost and rake it evenly over the bed.
Next comes seeding.
Before you sow, check the days to maturity (DTM) on each variety you’re growing. Asian greens and mustards reach maturity faster than lettuces, so stagger the seeding date based on DTM.
For example, Mizuna Asian greens are ready for harvest in 21 days. Gourmet Lettuce blend is ready in 28 days. To ensure they’re ready at the same time, sow the lettuce blend a week earlier than the Mizuna.
We sow a few hundred feet at a time, and love this six-row seeder to sow quickly and evenly. If you’re working with a smaller space, you can either sprinkle the seeds in rows, or broadcast in blocks by hand.
The second most important thing is to water evenly and consistently.
Be sure to consistently water your seedbed so the seeds don’t dry out. If they do dry out, you’ll get patchy germination. Covering the bed with reemay or agribon row cover helps keep the moisture in during germination.
Once the beds have germinated, we remove the reemay on the lettuce, but keep it on for the mustards, asian and specialty greens to protect them from flea beetles.
After germination, we water the greens every few days, depending on the weather. Watering can be a bit of a dance, with the frequency changing based on temperature and sun vs. clouds. While it’s okay to let the soil dry a bit, greens will grow best with regular watering.
Harvest the greens by hand with a sharp harvest knife. One of the benefits of baby greens is that you can cut and come again, getting 2-3 harvests from one planting. To do this, cut about 1” above the ground, leaving the growth point in tact.
If you’re harvesting 100’ beds like we are, the quick-cut greens harvester will cut down your harvest time by hours.
Mix your harvest together, wash and enjoy!
Do you grow your own mesclun mix? What’s your favorite green to add to it?
If you haven’t grown your own yet, are you going to give it a try? Let me know! And if you have any questions, post them in the comments below.