Saturday, 7 July 2012

Corn Salad or Lamb’s Lettuce

Lamb's Lettuce or Corn Salad

Corn Salad or Lamb’s Lettuce (Valerianella locusta) is an edible plant that, as its name aptly suggests, is good in salads.  Also known as Mache, it is a member of the Valerian family of Valerianaceae, and commonly grows as a weed in many places even though it is also widely cultivated.

Corn Salad can be found in waste ground, on hedge banks, sand dunes and on arable land used for growing other crops but usually in fairly dry soil. It will self-seed itself and spring up all over the place, even in cracks in a pavement and in walls.

It is a small annual plant that reaches a maximum of some 40cm and it bears really tiny pale lilac flowers. Corn Salad produces a rosette of spoon-shaped leaves and a short flowering stalk grows from this, usually producing flowers in spring. It is said that its name Lamb’s Lettuce comes from a similarity between the shape of its leaves with those of baby sheep

Corn Salad's range
Corn Salad is a very hardy plant and found growing wild in the UK, parts of Europe, North Africa and western Asia.  It has become naturalised in many parts of North America too after escaping cultivation there.
France is the main producer of Corn Salad today for sale to European consumers but it is also grown in Italy in Germany as a crop.  Germany, the UK and Spain are where the plant gets eaten the most in Europe. Organic Corn Salad seeds can be purchased online and from many suppliers of seeds.

Corn Salad can produce several crops in a year if cultivated. It is often grown as a second crop in August and September and gathered throughout the autumn and winter until it shoots upward to flower in spring. Although the whole plant is edible it is really only the leaves that are usually eaten.

Corn Salad can be eaten fresh on its own or mixed with other salad ingredients, and is particularly good with potato salad.  It has a pleasant tangy taste. Corn Salad can also be cooked a as green vegetable and served as a side-dish.

John Gerard's Herbal
Corn Salad was once foraged for by European peasants and was used as a food plant in Britain for many centuries. It was grown commercially in London from the late 18th century. Today it can be bought in seed form for cultivation as a salad plant. It was included in John Gerard’s Herbal in 1597, giving some indication of how long ago the plant was eaten. Because it grows in the autumn and winter, Corn Salad is a particularly useful plant to grow at these times in the year.
Drawing of Corn Salad

Vitamins and minerals
Corn Salad is a very healthy plant to eat because it is the source of several vitamins and minerals. It is said to contain three times as much Vitamin C as ordinary lettuce does. Corn Salad also contains Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B9, Beta-carotene , Omega-3 fatty acids, Potassium and Iron.

Corn Salad, although a small plant with very insignificant flowers, is well worth growing and eating.

Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

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