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It’s that time of the year again when I enjoy home-grown corn salad (aka mâche, lamb’s lettuce, rapunzel...).

While I love the taste, cleaning is a nightmare. Traditionally, the little plant rosettes are served whole and dirt tends to collect in the leaf axles, which means as a cook I have to do multiple soaking/rinsing rounds or the salad has some rather unpleasant “crunch”.

Is there a way to prevent or reduce the amount of dirt that collects in the plants already in the garden? I suspect splashing rain is a factor, so should I cover the soil? (Which may be difficult, considering that the individual plants are just a few cm in diameter and so far we just throw out the seeds over the prepared garden bed.) Does the type of soil matter?

Any idea?

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The problem is you're eating them when they're at the rosette stage - they actually reach a foot high if left to grow on, and at that point, the problem of soil getting into the rosettes is much reduced.

This salad green is sometimes available as part of a mix of cut and come again salad leaves sold in supermarkets - these do not have the issues you describe because they are always grown in containers in a protected environment. Certainly. container growing would solve a lot of the problem you're having because very little soil would be exposed (once they start growing) to be splashed upwards by rain,and any watering you do won't cause a similar problem. I'd try growing some in a large container and see if that's any better, because I agree, having to wash and re-wash food plants prior to consumption is an extremely tedious business... this isn't an ideal solution, I know, and if the container experiment works, it means a lot more containers rather than using the open soil in the garden.

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  • I have never seen the plants at that size - even bolted mine have never been larger/higher than ten, maybe fifteen cm. And they aren’t tasty anymore way before that. The base rosette stays the same. Are we talking about different things? – Stephie Mar 3 '19 at 20:28
  • Yea, we are, see here pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Valerianella+locusta to confirm ultimate height - but to be fair, this plant is usually eaten when the leaves are young, at the rosette stage. – Bamboo Mar 3 '19 at 23:47
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What are you mulching with? Cardboard is good, plain brown. It's not bleached and breaks down. Fishworms love it while slugs and snails hate it. The fishworm will add a lot of nitrogen to the soil, as well. If you go to Starbucks, they're usually happy to reduce landfill by giving away used coffee grounds, something fishingworms go ga-ga over. But, cover with a mulch or get coffee grounds in the leaves. Try the cardboard on some. Then, if worried over diert, you can give the plants a gentle spray of water to wash them while still planted. BTW, worm castings are called the dynamite of fertilizers. They're perfect.

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  • Don't forget tilling the coffee grounds into the soil is BAD!!!!!! – black thumb Mar 4 '19 at 14:38
  • I use them by the ton. Some days I can get 50 lbs of them, and they work just fine. 'Grounds are neutral, the acid washing into the coffee as it's made. they're high in carbon and potassium and about 4% nitrogen. They tighten sandy soil and loosen clay. For those who have fishing worms, thew worms go crazy over them and add to the nitrogen in their castings. Living in AZ, we have gravelly adobe with caliche. No worms, sorry to say. 'Ground raked into the soil stop it from crusting over. As a winter mulch, it adds heat, which prevents frost from harming plants. Freezes are another story. – red Mar 6 '19 at 5:13
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Due to not having bare dirt in the garden, but wood chips covering up everything that would normally be bare ground, I don't get any real problems with dirt on my lettuce heads.

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