Having a green thumb may be easier than you think.
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Salads may be your favorite go-to meal, or perhaps you'd like to add more veggies to your diet. Whatever your motivation, growing your own salad greens is a great way to incorporate them into your meals and try new varieties. Iceberg, romaine, or green leaf lettuces might be ubiquitous at the grocery store but if you want to sample new flavors, consider growing your own at home. The best part is the satisfaction of eating what you planted.

Most of these salad greens can be planted year-round but that will depend on your geographical region. Some can grow indoors as long as you have an area in your home, such as your windowsill, that receives a decent amount of sunlight each day. If you don't have a garden space or don't want to spend money on containers, don't fret, just upcycle! You can use plastic receptacles, such as yogurt cups or milk cartons, to grow your green. Just make sure to poke several holes in your containers to ensure the water can drain.

Planting lettuce in a wooden box
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Arugula

Arugula goes by several names, including rocket and rucola. With tender dark green leaves, they are often long and spiky or rounded, depending on the variety. Arugula has a sharp, pungent flavor, which gives a nice peppery bite when tossed with other greens.

How to grow arugula

Arugula grows well year-round in most geographical zones. Start seeds in pots or trays that are spacious enough so they can reach maturity, as transplanting can delay their growing process. This leafy green is frost-resistant and leaves are often more tender and sweeter after the first frost if you're growing them outdoors. Baby leaves are ready for picking within 20 to 30 days, or wait another month for mature leaves. For a continual harvest, plant seeds every two weeks. When harvesting, cut the leaves directly from the base of the stem and you can expect a successful resprouting of leaves two to three more times.

Ways to use arugula

Delicious on its own as a salad base, arugula's piquant flavor combines well with walnuts, a salty cheese, fruit (such as apples or strawberries), and an acidic dressing. You can try one of our many arugula salad recipes. You can also stir it into soups, blend it into pesto, or toss it with pasta.

Baby Spinach

Bowl of fresh spinach leaves on wood
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Baby spinach is from the Amaranth family, just like beets. Spinach is wildly popular and with good reason—it's versatile and rich in minerals and nutrients. The beauty of spinach is you can make so many variations and versions that you won't tire of eating it in a salad or any other savory dish.

How to grow baby spinach

This leafy green grows well indoors and outdoors, as long as it receives plenty of sunlight. You can sow baby spinach seeds in different receptacles or directly into the garden bed and it takes around 20 to 25 days until harvest. Like arugula, if you want a continuous supply, you'll want to plant seeds every couple of weeks. When clipping leaves, snip just above the soil line and keep about 1/2" on the stem so the leaves can regenerate, typically up to three times.

Ways to use baby spinach

Try these creative spinach salad recipes to start things off. Then move onto spinach omelets, stuffed mushrooms, or spanakopita.

Escarole

escarole
Credit: Meredith

Escarole, also known as broad-leaved endive and Batavian endive, has a flattened head with light green leaves in the middle and darker leaves on the outside. When raw it has a crunchy texture with a mild bitterness, which pairs well with acidic or sweet vinaigrettes. It can also be prepared warm, becoming more tender when cooked.

How to grow escarole

Two months before the first frost, sow seeds inside or outside. Although you can grow in containers, make sure there is ample space for this plant to reach maturity — anywhere from 70 to 85 days — because escarole produces a wide rosette. Escarole thrives in rich soil with plenty of compost. The last couple of weeks of the growing cycle, the leaves should be deprived of sunlight, which is known as blanching.

Ways to use escarole

Escarole is prominent in many Italian dishes, especially in soups, such as the classic — escarole and cannellini bean soup. It's also excellent when grilled, tossed with pasta, or put on pizza. Escarole makes a great salad addition thanks to its crunchy texture and bold flavor.

Frisée

frisee also known as curly endive
Credit: Meredith

Frisée, or curly endive, offers a fun, frilly texture with a bit of crunch and a mild bitter flavor. The leaves are narrow with a bit of curl and form a part of a wider rosette or head. Frisée has various hues from pale green to yellow or white leaves due to shielding the plant from light in the last few weeks before harvest.

How to grow frisée

Frisée grows well in mild climates and you can typically sow seeds in fall, winter, and spring. When there is too much heat, these plants will bolt or go to seed. You can start seeds indoors but once they sprout, you'll want to place their containers outside or transplant them directly into the garden. After the first frosts, leaves tend to be more tender and lose their sharp bite. You can harvest leaves as you wish or wait until the head reaches 6-inches all around — that's when you know it's ready for picking. Maturity can take anywhere from 40 to 70 days, depending on soil, sunlight and temperature.

Ways to use frisée

Frisée is primarily used in salads, so try it in these recipes paired with hot bacon dressing, citrus and avocado, or strawberry vinaigrette.

Mâche

mache aka lamb's lettuce or corn salad growing in a garden bed
Credit: Meredith

Mâche, also known as corn salad, lamb's lettuce or field lettuce, has been cultivated in France since the 1700's. This delightful green stands out on its own with a nice vinaigrette or mixed with other greens. Mache has tender leaves with a nutty, earthy flavor.

How to grow mâche

Mâche, also known as lamb's lettuce or corn salad, grows well from seeds and is often considered a weed. In milder climates, you can sow seeds in the fall and spring. If needed, you can begin indoors. Seeds germinate when soil is around 55 to 70 F degrees. This plant takes its time before you'll see a sprout poking out, usually in 2 to 3 weeks. Mâche likes fertile, amended moist soil, so you'll need to water frequently. A fully formed rosette takes around two months but if you're eager to taste this treat sooner, you can start to snip leaves when they reach 3-inches.

Ways to Use Mâche

With a tender texture, mâche is ideal for salads of all types. Try it with fennel and orange or layered up in jarred pasta salad.

Mustard Greens

mustard greens growing in a garden bed
Credit: Meredith

Mustard greens come from the leaves of the mustard plant, hence they have a sharp, peppery flavor and are known for having a "bite." A cruciferous vegetable, mustard comes from the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, and collards. Mustard leaves will add beautiful hues ranging from pine green to burgundy to your salad and give a wonderful texture with frilly or lacy leaves, depending on the varieties you grow.

How to grow mustard greens

Sow seeds outside when ground temperature is between 50 to 70 F degrees, otherwise you'll want to begin indoors in trays or containers. Mustard greens like plenty of sunlight and rich, well-drained soil. Keep the plant moist by watering often. Like most greens, plant seeds every fortnight for a continual harvest. You can start cutting leaves when they reach 2- to 4-inches, typically around 20 to 30 days, depending on the type, climate, and amount of sunlight.

Ways to use mustard greens

Mustard greens are typically cooked instead of being served raw. Try them sautéed with bacon, stir-fried in an Asian-inspired sauce, or stewed with cannellini beans.

Radicchio

cross section of radicchio
Credit: Meredith

Radicchio is a common and versatile ingredient used throughout Italy and is equally prized for its flavor and beauty. Radicchio form small oval heads and have vibrant maroon-purple leaves with a thick white vein down the middle. They can be confused with a red cabbage, but the flavor profile is distinctly different. Eaten raw, radicchio has a bitter and spicy punch but when cooked the flavor mellows and often has a slight sweetness.

How to grow radicchio

You can plant seeds outdoors two months before the first frost, otherwise begin indoors and then transplant or buy seedlings. Seeds germinate when soil temperatures are between 60 to 75 F degrees. Radicchio takes around 2.5 to 3 months to reach maturity and when it's ready, you'll cut the "head" about 1-inch' from the ground and typically, a new rosette will grow. You can pick the leaves as they grow too.

Ways to use radicchio

Eat radicchio raw in this salad with blue cheese and walnuts. Or try it cooked in pasta, with polenta, or grilled.

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