When thinking about winter salads, it is best if you leave the thought of a typical salad behind. Winter salads are about using what is in season and easily available to you. This may mean a salad without lettuce or growing your lettuce, but the main goal is to get you thinking about salads in a different way… outside the box.
When I think ‘winter salad,’ my go-to salad is quick to prepare, requires few ingredients and people love it. There is definitely room for altering the recipe. You could use a different dressing; although, I find the raspberry vinaigrette is a perfect match. Sometimes I’ve added raisins, sesame seeds, grated cabbage or grated kohlrabi into the mix‒they’re all great.
A very easy and common way to get greens into your salad in the off-season is by using microgreens or sprouts. They are easy to grow at home. They have a refreshing taste, add beautiful colour to any dish and are nutrient powerhouses. They also help to keep spirits up in the gloomy cold months by giving you something fresh to eat and grow inside. It is easy to find seeds for sprouts and microgreens. Some of the places to check out are: Rainbow Seeds, Veseys Seeds and Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds.
Sprouts in Mason jar
Place a tablespoon of seeds in a clean jar and cover with a few inches of water. Let small seeds soak 6-8 hours or soak larger seeds (e.g., peas and beans) for overnight. Drain the water through a mesh lid (you can use a piece of a screen, tooling or commercial sprouting lids), rinse and drain again. Rinse, drain, repeat every morning and night. Keep out of direct sunlight and store jars upside down in a bowl so excess water can run out (to avoid developing mould or bacterial problems).
It will take about 3-7 days from soaking to harvest; the length of time depends on the temperature of your house and size of the seeds. Once they are ready, rinse and start eating. They can be stored in the fridge. Rinse before eating. It is good to grow a small amount at a time because they have a short shelf life.
Laye moist growing medium (potting soil) in a shallow plastic tray (no need for holes in the bottom). Press the soil down so that it is firm, flat and even. Broadcast seeds over the tray so the seeds are crowded but don’t completely cover the surface. Place a cover over the tray and set aside for a few days until the seeds germinate. Then remove the cover and place in a sunny windowsill or under a grow light.
These can be eaten at any stage of growth but I like to eat them when the first set of true leaves are a decent size. Check moisture levels daily. If soil is becoming slightly dry, add water but not much as this can cause mould to form.
Kale, collards and hardy winter greens
Kale and collard greens are very cold hardy and grow well in our climate. They are also jam-packed full of vitamins and minerals. Kale has been listed as one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet and has sky-high amounts of vitamins A, K and C.
The only time we use whole kale leaves as a salad base is when it is at the baby leaf stage. When the leaves are larger, they become tough and more fibrous. We simply shred the leaves from the stems (the stems are great to save in a freezer bag to later add nutrients to stews and broths). We then use a mezzaluna (rounded two-handled chopping knife) to mince the kale before putting it in the salad. We also use minced kale in our smoothies and as a garnish for meals like eggs, soups, pasta dishes, rice dishes and stir-fries.
Turn your salad into a meal
Add protein and starches to energize your body and fill your belly.
Legumes: Add a handful of cooked beans, lentils or chickpeas as a topping. For added flavour, roast the cooked legumes in the oven on a baking sheet for 8 minutes or until they start to brown a little. This will pull the moisture from them and they will be more firm.
Eggs: Eggs are readily available and cheap, and provide an easy way to add protein to meals. You can boil, scramble, fry and/or poach them, then slice and add to salads. My favourite way is to slice hard-boiled eggs with a boiled egg slicer, both ways, lengthwise and widthwise, so the pieces are really small and crumbly. That way, I end up with pieces in every bite.
Raw nuts and seeds: These are a good source of healthy fat, fibre, vitamin E (great for your skin!) and many other vitamins and minerals. There are so many to choose from. Try some and find the ones you like best. For a sweet note, toast nuts and seeds in a frying pan and drizzle with maple syrup. You can add your favourite seasoning like Cajun seasoning or curry powder to the syrup.
Cheese: A great addition, of course! The best option is a firm cheese that can be grated or crumbled. Try goat cheese, feta, cheddar, Edam... the list goes on.
Grain: Add a handful of grain to a bowl of salad. Make a large batch of oat groats, rice, quinoa, couscous, or buckwheat and use the extra for meals in the coming days. You can boil the grains plain with water, or add flavour by cooking them in stock or broth with herbs.
Our favourite salad grains are oat groats and granola. Connecting Albert County is grateful for a Community Food Action grant from the Government of New Brunswick enabling us to publish articles on healthy eating using local ingredients. We invite readers to share their stories, tips and recipes. Please send these to info@ConnectingAlbertCounty.org.