There are many lesser-known vegetables that can be cultivated for using raw in salads. They are also good for small gardens or containers as they do not occupy too much space and can be grown as cut-and-come-again crops. They are more tolerant and usually pest and diseases free and can be grown under cover even in winter. You could try some of the following.
Land cress – a biennial, low-growing plant with a spread of 15-20 also known as upland cress. Very hardy and remaining green in winter, this plant is best to be grown in shade, in fertile and moisture-retentive soils. Sow seeds in spring for an early crop in summer or sow in late summer for an autumn and overwintering crop. Pick leaves 7 weeks after sowing. Let some plants run to seed and they will propagate freely.
Mustard – similar to cress, a cool-season crop that grows best in spring and autumn or as an overwintering crop. It may be sown without soil either on moist paper toweling in a saucer placed on a windowsill or in a sprouter. It can also be sown in a seed tray of potting compost or soil. Harvest by cutting as required when the seedlings are about 3.5-5 cm tall.
Salad rape – annual plant, fast-growing, tolerate a wide range of soils, it can be sown under cover in early spring and late autumn and in succession outdoors until early autumn. Harvest as seedlings after 10 days or to use cooked as greens when the plants reach 60 cm. It can tolerate temperatures of -10 Celsius degrees (14 F) and moderate heat.
Salad rocket – hardy plant, also known as rucola, erugala, Mediterranean rocket or roquette. It grows best in cool weather in moisture-retentive soil. Grows excellent under cover in winter in cool climates and as a cut-and-come-again crop. Harvest as seedlings after 3 weeks.
Cress – a fast-growing plant grown for its seedling leaves. Also known as garden cress, curly cress or peppercress, this plant is moderately hardy but a cool-season crop that grows best in light shade. In cool climates grows well under cover in winter. Sow outdoors in spring and late summer or early autumn. It can be grown as mustard on moist paper or in a sprouter on a windowsill. Harvest 10 days after sowing when seedlings are 5 cm high.
Iceplants – grown as perennials in warm climates and as tender annuals elsewhere, these plants have a sprawling habit, succulent stems and fleshy leaves. Iceplants need a sunny position and a light, well-drained soil. In cool climates sow indoors in spring and transplant outdoors when all risk of frost has passed. In warm climates sow in situ outdoors. Harvest 4 weeks after planting and continue to harvest regularly to promote further growth and remove any flowers that appear.
Winter purslane – a hardy annual that can be used all including leaves, stems and flowering shoots, raw in salads. It is also known as miner’s lettuce or claytonia. Thrives in cool weather and prefers well-drained conditions but it will grow well even in poor, light soil. If allowed it will self-seed rapidly. Sow in spring for summer crop and in late summer for an autumn to early winter crop. Start harvesting 12 weeks after sowing leaving the plants to resprout.
Summer purslane – half-hardy, low-growing plant with green and yellow-leaved forms. It needs a warm, sheltered site with light, well-drained soil. Grow them as cut-and-come-again seedling crop or as single plants. In cool climates sow in a tray in late spring, planting them out after all risk of frost have past. Make earlier and late summer sowings under cover as a cut-and-come-again seedling crop. In warm climates you can sow in situ outside throughout the summer. harvest from 4 to 8 weeks after sowing. Cut regularly leaving two basal leaves and remove any flowers that develop.
Watercress – a hardy aquatic perennial with nutritious leaves used in salads and soups. Grow in moist garden soil or in 15-21 cm pots. Put a layer of gravel or moss in each pot, fill with rich soil and stand it in a dish of cool, clean water. Plant three or four rooted cuttings per pot and place it in a sheltered place in good light. Change the water at least daily in hot weather. Harvest as needed.
Dandelions – hardy perennial weed that can be consumed entirely: young leaves, flowers and roots. The cultivated forms are larger and slower to run to seed. They tolerate a range of well-drained soils. Sow in spring in seed trays for transplanting out. To sweeten the slightly bitter leaves you should blanched them. Do this in succession from late summer covering the plants with a light-proof bucket. Harvest the leaves when they are elongated and creamy-yellow. Dandelions die back in winter but will reappear in spring.
Corn salad – hardy annual grown for autumn and winter salads in cool climates. Also known as lamb’s lettuce or mache. There are two types: the floppy, large-leaved type and the smaller, upright type. They tolerate a wide range of soils. In cool climates grow them under cover in winter. Grow them as cut-and-come-again seedling crop or as individual plants. Sow them from mid summer onwards in situ. Keep the seeds moist until they have germinated. Being a slow-growing crop it needs 12 weeks to mature. Harvest leaves individually or cut across the plants, leaving them to resprout for a second cut.