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It is slightly bitter but also has a bite to it and it s important to tear it into small pieces. One of our great dinner-table pastimes at the cottage is guessing what s in the salad. My father in law usually puts twenty or more garden ingredients in. Here are some of the others he grows and tosses into salads usually just a handful of each. First a couple of perennial herbs grow outside the garden fence (because the deer don t seem to find these herbs that interesting. One is bee balm or bergamot; it grows leaves that taste like Earl Grey tea and gorgeous scarlet red flowers that can be torn into their individual florets the florets tossed into the salad for visual effect. A half dozen bergamot leaves in small pieces is all you d want in a large salad.
After he washes them tears the larger pieces up and adds them to a gigantic salad bowl he usually adds a couple of store-bought ingredients to round out the textures and flavors of the salad. These include sweet red peppers (cut into tiny pieces) and fennel bulb (also called Florence fennel or anise). Then he adds a simple dressing of olive oil various wine vinegars a dash of Dijon mustard and a teaspoon of sugar. Salad is served at the end of the main course so that the vinegar doesn t spoil the flavor of whatever wine we re drinking. Sometimes the salad bowl goes around three or four times before it s all gone and eating a fresh green salad grown straight from the cottage garden is one of the summer s greatest pleasures.
There s an old half whiskey barrel on the cottage deck that grows pansies and a few of the pansy blossoms sometimes find their way into a salad (they are edible as are violet blossoms if you don t mind picking them out of your lawn). Lemon balm is another interesting perennial with a citrus flavor that makes it easy to identify when playing the salad guessing game. Tarragon is another anise-flavored herb but I m not a big fan - for some reason I find tarragon numbs my mouth. But I ve been overruled on that account and there s always a little tarragon in our cottage salads. Kale grows well in northern gardens and we sometimes harvest mature kale in the dead of winter. When the plants are young in August and September the smaller leaves go well in a salad but because they are rough they do need to be torn into small pieces.