Mache seems to be one of the sturdiest greens for the winter garden. Crank out abundant leaves around the snow and enjoy them in a salad bowl. It is the best option to grow in the garden to provide staple crops during the cold weather.
The gourmet leaves offer a sweet and nutty taste with a wealth of fresh mache greens nutrition. They thrive in many wild areas, but some varieties are available to be bred in backyards. Thus, you can grow this cold-tolerant vegetable since it is blissfully simple to plant in your garden.
Growing easily from the seeds will help you to plant for backyard gardening. Therefore, read on the following information to know several varieties of corn salad and ways to cultivate them successfully. Also, learn other detailed info about storing and serving this vegetable.
Valerianella locusta is the botanical name of mache. This vegetable is popularly known as lamb’s lettuce. The corn salad also becomes its common name because this vegetable tends to grow wildly in Zea mays fields.
Then, the greens require full sun or partial shade areas to thrive. April to June is the time when mache with its pale blue-white flowers will blossom. This tender salad green starts to sprout in the spring that offers a pleasant spectacle.
This green lettuce grows about 30 to 61 centimeters at maturity. It is native to Western Asia, Europe, and North Africa.
Furthermore, the corn salad that has a delicious flavor resembles nutty butterhead lettuce. Its leaves contain iron and other minerals. Besides, it gives a nourishing boost of vitamins. During the winter, this vegetable becomes attractive and nutritious food when other fresh fares are nothing.
Mache Lettuce Varieties
The original wild mache plant has developed more than 60 types. Those varieties of corn salad come with various leaf sizes, tastes, and shapes. They consist of two categories, small-seeded and large-seeded.
The best types to grow in the winter are small-seeded varieties. They give more delightful taste than the large ones. Meanwhile, large-seeded plants are more productive and resistant to hot temperatures.
Moreover, small-seeded mache plants grow about 5.1 to 12.7 centimeters in diameter. The varieties have round leaves with dark green color. For example, D’Etampes, Verte de Cambrai, and Coquille de Louviers are the most popular plants. Those types thrive well in moist and cold conditions.
On the other hand, the large-seeded types feature a cluster of circle-shaped leaves that arise from the crown. They are long, narrow, and spoon-shaped with a soft green hue. Then, the size is about 10 to 20 centimeters. These easy-to-harvest plants include Piedmont, Valgros, and Grosse Graine.
The mache plants can thrive in any soil conditions. They will have more foliage in an area that contains nitrogen-rich compost. The gardeners often start to sow the seeds in the first week of May, although the regular schedules recommend growing mache in the spring season.
The next planting starts during the summer season to get continual crops, but it causes poor germination in hot weather. The ideal time is after mid-August and before the last week of September.
Thus, young beds of mache that sprout in September will grow generously in the early spring. Then, while planting in the winter, add mulch with coniferous branches to protect the soil from the cold climate. The gardeners will gather the crops at the end of May.
How to Grow Mache
Before planting, decide what type of mache that you will choose, the small-seeded, or the large-seeded. Opt for the best varieties that work well with your growing season. The corn salad green needs some soil requirements, but it has low-maintenance.
This annual plant needs sufficient light to keep growing well. Expose to the full sun to warm the soil. However, it can also thrive in partial shade area.
Besides, the corn salad requires proper drainage and adequate compost or organic matter. Well-drained soil will encourage more leaves. This vegetable can grow in any soils with a neutral pH. Do not forget to water the plants in the morning and do it more often if they grow in full sun areas.
Moreover, make sure that the temperature is about 10 to 21 degrees Celsius. The seeds can germinate in that condition. Enrich the land by applying manure or compost, so you do not need fertilizer anymore. Give nutrients from those kinds of organic matter.
Growing from Mache Seeds
Gardeners usually sow the seeds directly in the garden during the fall or early spring season. Spread the seedlings and wait for two weeks until they germinate. Apply regular watering every week as required.
On the other hand, to grow the seeds in the winter, add water to cool the soil before sowing. After that, use a board to cover the land for several days.
The peak size of mache that is ready to harvest appears in February and March. The best conditions of soil will produce vigorous growth. Then, you can get a bowlful of corn salad by cutting the rosettes near the axis.
Also, as the plant matures, snip off the outer greens instead of waiting for the whole rosettes. Remember to trim at 5 cm from the stem to allow the leaves to grow again.
You still can pick off the leaves until the plants start to produce the seeds in April. Gather the seedlings from the flower stalks as they mature. Use the remaining stems as organic manure that will give nutrients to the soil.
Consume the corn salad when it is still fresh, but do not harvest the leaves until they are ready to eat. Wash them to remove any dirt and sand that might lie in the small greens.
Pick the leaves as many as you need, but if you want to keep in the refrigerator, you can store them in a storage bag. They will last for two weeks. Another way is by placing the stems in a glass of water and cover with plastic. It will prolong the life of your mache.
To keep the crispness of corn salad, store the greens in the refrigerator with high dampness. Utilize a bowl of water or cloth bag to avoid drying. After turning up the humidity, place them in the drawer.
Importantly, keep away from fruits while storing the corn salad in the refrigerator since the vegetable is sensitive to ethylene. This gas comes from those varieties of fresh foods.
Common Problems of Mache
Some problems that may occur while growing the corn salad are small plants, slow growth, folded edges of the leaves, dried-out or brown leaf tips, yellowing, and lack of vigor. These common signs appear when the pH of the soil is too low or high.
Moreover, burned leaf tips can be the result of applying too much fertilizer and containing sodium in the land. Other factors that cause these problems are lack of Nitrogen, compacted or alkaline soil, poor drainage, irregular watering, and hot temperatures.
Generally, fewer pests and diseases will infect the cold-season greens than the warm-weather varieties. Downy mildew might affect the plants in seashore areas. To decrease the risk of problems, you should apply proper cultural systems.
For instance, thinning and spacing the leaves allow the air to circulate well between the plants. Then, keep the soil dry between the watering times. Do not water directly to the leaves to make them arid. Also, remove any infected parts from the stems.
Additionally, the common pests that infect the corn mache are slugs. They like the delicate leaves so much. These gastropods will attack the plants in the spring season when the soil becomes humid.
Use some slug-repellants to prevent the pests. You can encircle the corn salad with a copper ring, diatomaceous earth, and coffee grounds.
Some other pests are aphids, leaf miners, and snails. Give extra protection by using poisonous materials for bait. It will trap the deer, birds, gophers, and rabbits while entering the planting areas. Likewise, grow the plants in raised beds with additional fences or cages.
Mache Serving Suggestions
The corn salads belong to foliaged greens that contain more nutrients than common lettuce. The leaves are rich in vitamin C and omega-3. They also become a source of potassium, iron, and beta-carotene.
Try to enjoy the greens with the traditional European style. It uses vinaigrette as a dressing that consists of hazelnut oil, vinegar, and seasonings. The French way works great as well. You just simply add chopped boiled eggs in a bowl of corn salad.
Moreover, toasted pecans make a perfect combination with grapes, gourmet greens, spring onions, and vinegar dressing. Alternatively, enjoy herb salad with mache and raw vegetables.
As an edible vegetable, you can just enjoying mache with raw leaves, but this vegetable also can be cooked like spinach. It can also be added to soups. Combine leaf lettuce with mache to make a strong flavoring and textured salad base. Besides, mix the greens with avocado and fresh lemon, add olive oil dressing, and served with baked tortillas.
Finally, have you had your first taste of mache? Start to plant Valerianella locusta with other gourmet vegetables in the garden. Then, enjoy some delicate rosette-shaped bunches for your raw salad or other side dishes.