Why not consider growing more than lettuce when planting salad greens in your garden? Spicy greens like arugula, cress and Japanese mustards, can add variety to what can otherwise be a ho-hum salad. Many of these are easy to grow in the spring and mature in a very short period, usually between 20 and 60 days.
Arugula, also known as rocket, is a popular spicy green. Its leaves have a unique nutty flavor and grow best in cold weather. Plant it early in the spring and late in the summer. For summer harvest, plant arugula in the shade or under floating row covers where temperatures are cooler.
Cress is a more challenging plant to grow in Colorado's intense sun. Planting cress in an area that's shaded part of the day is best, particularly when weather turns warm. It is ready to harvest in as little as two weeks. Both curly cress, also known as peppergrass, and broadleaf cress, thrive in ordinary garden soil and can be harvested more than once before going to seed.
For fiery greens, grow Japanese mustards. Japanese mustard varieties include Osaka Purple, Greenwave and Red Giant. They can withstand some summer heat if planted in partial shade. Japanese mustards are considered some of the spiciest of greens.
Another savory, easy to grow plant in Colorado is annual nasturtium. The flowers and the leaves are edible and are a peppery bite.
Mibuna and mizuna offer a starting point for those wanting milder but savory salads. The plant is quick to mature, and the leaves can be picked on an as-needed basis. One plant can produce enough leaves for many salads.
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Updated Friday, February 28, 2014