Monday, April 03, 2006

Salad Days Are Here Again

Whenever the sky contains a modicum of sunshine and there is a hint of warmth in the air, I find my attentions turning away from cooked the cooked greens which sustain me through the winter months, to the light and delicate leaves of salads.

There is something rather sad and unappetising about munching one's way through a chemical- laden pillow of leaves from a supermarket, and so last weekend, with its promise of burgeoning spring, I walked up to the Marylebone farmers market to see what leafy goodies were on offer.

It seems that everyone in London, including tourists, are aware of Borough Market which does means that actually trying to purchase anything has become an exercise in bustling, which rather robs robs one of any pleasure to be had in selecting delectable morsels and reminds one of rubbing up against fellow underground commuters in rush hour. Luckily the Sunday morning Marylebone market is a much more relaxed affair albeit a tiny fraction of the size.

So, determined to try something new I headed for the Wild Country Organics stall, tempted by their crates brimming over with a huge variety of weird and wonderful leaves in addition to the more usual suspects. After a consultation with the lovely stall holder I filled bags with ryokusai, greenin snow and claytonia, none of which I have ever encountered before, let alone nibbled.

How glad I am that I have. Ryokusai is a form of Chinese cabbage, its glossy dark green leaves resembling those of chard or savoy cabbage. It is also called Chinese mustard although I found that it had more of a peppery character. Unlike the spiky leaved greenin snow. A vivid shade of emerald, this distinctive leaf has a fierce mustard flavour which was superb when stir fried with garlic, spring onions and red chili. And then there was the delicate, feminine claytonia. These little leaves have a soft, almost dewy texture and have a slightly lemony taste. Perfect when combined with ribbons of cucumber and sugarsnap peas to accompany grilled fish.

Having had an introduction into the exciting world of leaves and so early in the season, I am looking forward to a long spring and summer of glorious salads. If only the weather would be as similarly enthusiastic.


Peter Newman-Legros said...

Hard to beleaf there is so much variety! Chortle. Sounds delicious anyhow. I remember many eons ago accompanying a friend to Richmond and coming across a fab greengrocer who sold "exotica" such as raddichio and frisée. I spent a fair proportion of my unemployment benefit on a selection of temptations.

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