The year of the salad

Year of the Salad: What’s New at Red Wagon This Year   

Red Wagon Plants owner Julie spoke with Joyce Cellars, a home cook and beginning kitchen gardener who’ll be guest blogging for us this season. 

2016 guest blogger, Joyce Cellars, on left with our friend Jessica Bongard. 

2016 guest blogger, Joyce Cellars, on left with our friend Jessica Bongard. 

  • You’ve dubbed 2016 “year of the salad.” Why? 

Red Wagon Plants turns ten this year, and I wanted to celebrate with something that would be personally meaningful to me. I’ve always been into salad. I also wanted to offer a kind of antidote to the whole bacon trend. In France, every meal includes a green salad. That’s always been important to me in my own cooking, and I think of a garden that way too: you should be able to harvest a fresh vegetable salad from your garden for as long as possible in the year. Helping gardeners do that is a good way to celebrate being ten years old. 

  • You’ll be hosting four seasonal “salad fixings” workshops this year. Tell me about those. 

The Salad Fixings workshops are about eating seasonally, but they’re also about taking advantage of every possible moment in your garden. We’ll be teaching gardening skills and cooking techniques. Salads throughout the year evolve with the vegetables that are in season, and cooking techniques change accordingly.  For example, the summer workshop is all about tomatoes. We grow 75 varieties of tomato and wanted to give our customers the opportunity to try some they’ve maybe been curious about but never purchased. Fall is all about timing, season extension techniques and winter-hardy greens. Winter is about making tasty salads from storage crops like root vegetables and squash.  Plus we’ll be sharing a simple meal together, so the workshops are part educational and part breaking bread. And they’re only $10! 

  • Do I need to be an advanced gardener to join a workshop?

The workshops are for everyone. Beginners will learn what to start from seed, how far apart to plant, how often to plant. A more experienced gardener will learn about season extension and some of the tools that a professional grower might use. In the early greens workshop, for example, one of the major topics we’ll cover is how to make your garden plan as efficient and practical as possible so that it’s always producing fresh salad greens. Lot of times people plant a whole lot of lettuce once a year and have way too much in spring, then it bolts and gets bitter, and they’re sick of it. We want to help people break that cycle, instead learning to plant just a little bit, but every week. How to garden through time and space, not just all at once. Creating pace and rhythm. That’s my favorite part of gardening. 

  • Why grow your own salad greens? 

The flavor and texture of growing your own salad greens – and texture is right up there with flavor – is something you can’t get with greens that have been sitting in a walk-in cooler, even if it’s only been a few days. And the flavor: you don’t need to do anything to fresh greens! You can just eat them by the handful, without anything on them. They are that delicious. They’re way better than potato chips or any junk food. 

  • What are your favorite greens?

It depends on the time of year. I love the seasonality of salads that are made of what’s abundant during a few weeks and months each year. They become more special; there’s a ritual cycle to them. In early spring I love mâche, which only germinates under cool conditions. There’s nothing like a Boston lettuce just out of the garden in June. Heaven. Escaroles and frisée are great in the hot summer months because they take the heat well, and they go well with grilled meats and a heartier, garlicky dressing. Late summer means salads with the fruit of the garden: tomato salads, cucumber salads, roasted summer veggies like eggplant and peppers. Fall brings heartier greens. I love arugula in November, after it’s frosted a couple of times. And in winter, of course, a bit of raw kale salad – though only in moderation! 

  • What’s your favorite salad memory? 

It would have to be French-style dandelion salad with garlicky dressing. I have such strong memories of going out with my mom and harvesting dandelion greens, which she’d toss with a super garlicky dressing with hardboiled egg. I still make it. It’s quite a bit of work foraging and washing the leaves, but I do it at least once each spring. It’s so good for you; it’s exactly what your body needs.We’re going to learn how to make dandelion salad in the salad workshop. I guess this is where the bacon comes in: a little bit of bacon, a garlicky crouton, dandelion leaves dressed with a hearty vinaigrette. That is such a satisfying meal. 

  • What else can we look forward to in your anniversary year? 

Our retail greenhouses will be open later this year, until the end of August. We have some great upcoming events like a wine dinner, a beginning kitchen garden series, and we’re hosting the Flynn Garden Tour tea . On Saturdays from Thanksgiving until Christmas, we’ll put on a holiday pop-up market at the greenhouses. We’ll have hot chocolate, local wine, wreath-making stations, and greens and herbs for windowsill gardens that end up in winter salads. We’ll help you find a way to keep the garden going into those short days!