Saturday, April 6, 2013

Micro-Greens / Mesclun

An Intro to Mesclun

Mesclun seedlings
MY STATUS: Grown Successfully to Harvest   

Mesclun, also called micro-greens, simply refers to a seed mix including several types of loose-leaf salad greens.  My mix has Arugula (Rocket), Green Curled Endive, Red Russian Kale, Red Romaine lettuce, Parris Island Cos lettuce, Salad Bowl lettuce, and Lolla Rossa lettuce. As some of these are more sensitive to heat than others. In my first trial, the endive and salad bowl varieties failed to germinate.


As most lettuces prefer cooler weather, they are a little more challenging to grow on Pohnpei than herbs. The best bet is to keep them in open shade, where they will get plenty of light but not be baked by the equatorial sun.


These plants need to be moist all the time, though they should never be soggy. As containers dry out fast, keep a close eye on them, especially on hot days. It helps to compose a soil mix that drains quickly and put a layer of fine gravel at the bottom of the containers.


Greens should be ready to harvest 40-70 days after germination depending on the species. Individual leaves can be picked as needed.

What I Did


Mesclun seedlings
I sowed my Ferry-Morse StartSmart seeds in a shallow, rectangular container. I put a thin layer of gravel on the bottom and filled the rest with a standard mix of potting soil. The container is being kept in full sun until germination, after which it will be moved to the shade.


The mesclun has been among the fastest germinating seeds. Some species came up in less than 48 hours. I think they beat the basil. Once germinated, the container was moved to open shade, as these plants prefer cooler weather.

DAY 12

Seedlings have increased in size and some are starting to see the development of true leaves. I can distinguish at least four types of greens so far.

9-day-old mesclun seedlings

DAY 19

19-day-old mesclun with Red Russian Kale showing first true leaves (center)
I wish I could say the greens are thriving, but they are having trouble. We had a several-day stretch of hot, sunny weather last week that was probably rough for the little seedlings of plants that already prefer cooler weather than Pohnpei has to offer. I probably should have made a better effort to make sure they stayed completely out of the sun. Some of the seedlings have withered and been pulled out. As I anticipated, certain species seem to be doing better than others. The Red Russian Kale and Red Romaine can be identified. I can't tell if there is any rocket (arugula). There are some green-leafed plants in there, but I'm not sure which variety they are yet--too small. All the plants seem to be growing very, very slowly--probably another symptom of temperatures that are above the optimal limits.

DAY 49

Development has been very slow with these cool-weather plants, but they are looking better. I give them about an hour of direct sun early in the morning and keep them in open shade the rest of the time. Certain species are certainly more tolerant of the heat and humidity. The kale is thriving. The Red Romaine, Parris Island Cos, and Lolla Rosa are doing moderately well. The rocket is growing the slowest and is most prone to heat-wilt. I've started transplanting some of the larger individuals into their own pots to give them more room to develop. No endive or salad bowl seeds germinated.


Here's the funny thing. Though I transplanted out all the good-looking plants from my original container, new seedlings are still coming up from the first sowing now 2 1/2 months ago! Some of these seedlings are varieties of lettuce that hadn't shown up before in this mix. I've definitely got Salad Bowl now, though still no endive. Oh well. I suppose the kids wouldn't eat the endive anyway, and I'm totally blown away by the overall success of these seeds. Who knew one little packet of mesclun could be so prolific?!


A mixed green salad made entirely from our Pohnpei-grown lettuce and herbs
All of the lettuce species that grew from the mesclun packet continue to be very productive. I have enough plants that we can have a nice mixed green salad every 3 days without any supplementary store-bought lettuce. It's absolutely fantastic and so unexpected to be eating gourmet salad on Pohnpei! I never would have thought.  The salad pictured at right had Russian Kale, Red Romaine, Parris Island Cos, Salad Bowl, Arugula, and Lolla Rossa lettuces with sweet basil, lemon basil, parsley, and fennel leaves. With a nice caesar dressing, it was delicious and full of complex flavors!

DAY 91 - MORE PLANTS (8/14)

The second wave of seedlings (all from the first planting) are now nice plants, which I'm harvesting little by little. I wish I could figure out what the mystery species in the batch is. It's not one of the plants listed on the seed packet.

91-day-old mesclun

See continuation of this record on the pages for each of the individual species of greens (Red Russian Kale, Red Romaine, Parris Island Cos, Arugula, Lolla Rossa)


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