Exciting news this week on the VegVan is the transformation of the appearance, flavour and texture of the leaves in the Cultivate Salad Bags. These changes are brought about by the colder weather that causes the emergence, over the Winter months, of different varieties of brassica plants which we then mix into our bags.
Brassicas are amazingly hardy plants, with the ability to grow over the colder months whilst other plants, including many lettuce varieties, die off. We therefore swap in various tasty brassica varieties for many of the Summer lettuce leaves.
In this category of Brassicas we have a fairly long list, and many of them are oriental- named greens such as Pak Choi, Tatsoi, Mizuna, Mibuna, Osaka Purple and Komatsuna, Mustards start being harvested, including the varieties of Giant Red, Green Wave and Golden Streaks, and we also use the young leaves of the more familiar Red Russian Kale and Rocket plants.
The flavours of these leaves are often placed somewhere on the peppery, mustardy scale. The Mustard varieties are probably the punchiest, whilst at the other end of the scale Mibuna has a fairly mild peppery taste. You might also notice hints of cabbage flavour, this is thanks to the Pak Choi and the Red Russian Kale that are both members of the cabbage family.
It is not just the flavour of the salad that changes from Summer to Winter, we also see an altering in the appearance and texture of the salad leaves. Multiple shades of green, red and purple start arriving and we can notice the leaves take on very interesting shapes. The Mibuna, for example, has a lovely, long and sleek leaf like a finger, Golden Streak Mustard has a frilly leaf, and Green Wave Mustard has a crimpled wave shape to it. Pak Choi and the Red Russian Kale have a robust, matte texture compared to the very crisp texture of the Summer leaves.
These altered flavours, appearances and textures add a whole different dimension to the nature of the salad bags over the Winter months: the peppery, cabbage-like flavours aren’t usually present in the Summer salads, whilst the appearance and the texture of the leaves becomes more varied and unusual.