It can be tough to have the perfect home grown salad because your sweet cherry tomatoes are just looking good, but your lettuce and spinach has set seed and died! Here is a list of some summer greens that taste good and can withstand the heat. As a bonus I’ve given some tips and tricks for keeping lettuce going in the summer, but you should try out some of these other options too. Variety is the spice of summer greens!
Although Malabar appears to be a vining spinach, it is actually not a true spinach. Regardless, Malabar makes a great alternative green during the summer months. The vine is a beautiful dark red-purple color and the leaves a deep green. I find this summer green is best cooked, but you can eat it raw.
Sweet Potatoes have a habit of vining out if control in the home garden. It’s good practice to cut back these greens to improve tuber development, and the bonus is they’re edible. The abundant, heart-shaped leaves are delicious. Great for sautéing up mid-summer when there aren’t too many leafy greens around. These greens are so good, we’ve written a blog post just about eating sweet potato greens.
When planted in spring, New Zealand spinach can be harvested all summer long. Like Malabar spinach, this is not a true spinach, but makes a great summer green with good flavor and crunch. The young leaves work well in salads and smoothies, but can also be cooked. This plant explores quite happily, almost like ground cover. Make sure to soak the seeds 24 hours before planting to assure good germination.
Don’t have fear, nettles won’t sting when cooked. This heat tolerant plant can make a great replacement for kale or chard during the warmest months of the year. The leaves are super healthy and packed with nutrients, which can be used fresh or dried for winter tea and additions to soup. Definitely wear gloves when harvesting!
Note: nettle greens are best used for eating before the plant flowers.
Purslane is a great wild edible that can be found all over, but if you want a steady supply of this green in your garden then plant some Golden Purslane. This yellow green succulent contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy plant and holds up to the heat as a healthy addition to any salad or sandwich.
All these alternative summer greens are great, but sometimes you just want a bowl of lettuce! Unfortunately, lettuce is well known to bolt once it heats up and to be honest you’ll always struggle to grow lettuce in the heat of summer, but there are some tricks to help grow lettuce in summer:
- Shade cloth or natural shade – lettuce (and other greens) can tolerant some partial shade, so keep your lettuce plants out of the harsh western sun by planting in natural afternoon shade or using shade cloth to protect the plants.
- Water well – lettuce will be inclined to bolt when it is stressed, by keeping your lettuce well watered in the summer heat, you’ll be able to slow down the bolting response.
- Heat tolerant varieties – some lettuce varieties are bred to withstand heat more than others. Three great examples are Jericho Lettuce and Parris Island Romaine and Buttercrunch.
- Succession planting – don’t get caught out by bolting lettuce. Plant little and often throughout the season so you can always be harvesting fresh baby leaves.
Paris Island Romaine Lettuce
Article Written by: Angie Lavezzo
About the Author: Angie Lavezzo is the former general manager of Sow True Seed. Beyond her professional role at Sow True, Angie's passion for gardening extends into personal hands-on experience, fostering plants and reaping bountiful harvests.