A Medicinal Salad Garden—Cuz the Roar of Spring Is Here!

I was recently given a great book. Not just any book, but rather a book by one of the foremost holistic practitioners ever! Thankfully, you can still find a number of books written by past geniuses in the field of nutrition, and I’ll talk about some of these great doctors later in this article. But first, I’d like to talk about the conclusion I came to after reading the book I just mentioned: the importance of growing your own medicinal salad garden.

I was so impressed with the information this book has to offer on eating the right whole and/or raw foods. In particular, how and why the correct food can address a sickened organ, and even what supplement may heal it!

As I was propped up on my pillows reading, I became so excited about eating my favorite raw food in a bowlsalad—that I jumped out of bed and went to my computer to make sure this book was still available. Well, you’re in luck! It’s Conversations in Nutrition by Dr. Royal Lee. It’s a must-have for yourself, the skeptics in your circle of family and friends, or any avid holistic being (like me and, hopefully, you, my dear reader) who you may know!

Back to the topic of medicinal salads, it occurred to me that we’re seeing tons of plastic containers with precut, prewashed greens at our health food stores and grocery markets, all sold for an astonishingly high price. I’ve been guilty of purchasing these in the past, and I realized that after the first use most of the greens start to turn yellow. They possibly may even start to breed bacteria, which means, in my opinion, that they should be washed anew. It seems the rotting begins as early as the day after I purchase them!

The expiration dates on precut, prewashed greens are short. If the expiration date is close, definitely consider rewashing them. Sadly, many of us have tossed a relatively full box of very expensive greens into the trash because we didn’t use them soon enough after we purchased them. A real bummer! Unless you plan to use all of the greens at one sitting, I find this option to be a waste of money.

Finally, when compared to fresh-cut, lovely, organically grown medicinal salad greens, many of which are perennial and easy to grow, these plastic containers of precut, prewashed greens offer compromised nutritional value.

If you’re unable to grow your own salad greens, I suggest you buy whole lettuce, fresh herbs, and other raw, edible veggies, and simply wash them yourself.

According to my local garden center here in Colorado Springs, CO, growing the lettuce we all love takes special timing. They MUST be planted in the very early spring, while it’s still relatively cool outdoors. In Colorado and other parts of the country with true four-season weather, the right time for planting lettuce and other salad greens is mid to late March or early April. I plant my chosen lettuce no later than April 10th using containers right on my deck, which makes it easy for me to care for them while allowing for succession planting. I place a plastic mattress cover or plastic sheeting over them before a predicted spring snow or cold weather spell. Otherwise, they do just fine.

Some Great Plants for Making Medicinal Salads

I’d seriously need to write a book to give you a comprehensive list of all the wondrous greens, vegetables, and fruits that can give a raw salad the “nutritional” and “medicinal” grade I’m advocating in this article. Below you’ll find links and recipes for some greens that will give you a “Popeye” burst of energy and make for a spirit-lifting meal all in one big bowl! Are you hungry yet? (Smile)

The Two Ingredients in Most Salads:
There are numerous raw salad greens to choose from, but most salads have two basic ingredients. What are they? You guessed it: they’re lettuce and salad dressing.

If you want to make the salad-haters in your family amenable to eating salads, you may as well start with the most flavorful, nutritious lettuce you can buy or grow. This means organically grown—the healthier the soil, the more flavorful the food. Also, avoid store-bought salad dressings, which often contain soybean or canola oil. Instead, make the homemade, nutrient dense dressings you’ll find in Nourishing Traditions or use the basic salad dressing recipes you’ll find further below.

The Most Nutritious Lettuce Picks

From “What Green Lettuce Is the Most Nutritious?” (SFGate.com):

“Green leaf, romaine and butter head are all good sources of vitamins A and K, but romaine delivers significantly more vitamin A, while green leaf is the best source of vitamin K. In a 100-gram serving, romaine has almost 300 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, compared with 247 percent in green leaf and 110 percent in butter head. Green leaf lettuce contains 105 percent of the daily value of vitamin K, while romaine and butter head have 85 percent. Green leaf lettuce also delivers 10 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, which is twice the amount in romaine or butter head lettuce. Iceberg has 3 to 7 percent fewer B vitamins.”

Growing Your Own Lettuce and Salad Greens

As I was researching the many types of salad greens you can grow, I found this great list from Better Homes & Gardens. I think it’s a helpful way to determine which greens you may want to invest your time and money in. Also take a look at some of the ideas they offer for setting up a great container garden for salad greens even in a tiny space, such as your deck or veranda.

Soil Preparation
Some simple soil preparations from “How to Grow Lettuce in a Container” (GrowingKnowHow.com): “Use a professional soil mix for planting lettuce in container situations, as the mix is formulated to hold water and provide nutrients. A soil mix is usually peat or compost, soil, and either vermiculite or perlite for water retention. You’ll need 1 to 3½ gallons of soil depending on the size of your container. Choose a lettuce mix marked ‘cut and come again’ for repeat harvests.”

In terms of containers, use your imagination and find whimsical, serious, or conventional pots to grow your lovely greens. Yes, the sky’s the limit. You can even use a wicker basket, which, by the way, are a dime a dozen at your nearest ARC thrift store. Take your inspiration from this easy wicker basket planting idea from hgtv.com.

True Greats in the Field of Nutrition

As promised above, here is a list of practitioners, authors, and scientists whose works are well worth your time. Their books and articles offer some truly great reading, learning, and study. Whether it’s for personal or professional reasons, I recommend that you avail yourselves of their writings.

You can also visit the SRP Historical Archives, where you’ll find the most comprehensive source of nutritional articles the twentieth century has to offer, as well as the newly upgraded Weston A. Price Foundation website, which offers hundreds of articles on all things healthy! Be sure to check them out.

Basic Salad Dressings and Nutrient Dense, Fresh, Homemade Salads

 The following salad dressings are courtesy of Megan Quinones, member of the Colorado Springs North Weston A. Price chapter.

Simple Oil & Vinegar Dressing
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup raw apple cider vinegar
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey (optional)

Basic Balsamic Dressing
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon real maple syrup (optional)

Italian Salad Dressing
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white or red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 tablespoon diced red pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon each dried parsley, basil, oregano, garlic, and onion
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Ranch Dressing
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons buttermilk
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon champagne, coconut vinegar, lemon juice
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 tablespoon each chopped chives and parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried dill
¼ teaspoon onion powderPinch of cayenne pepper

 Watercress, Beet & Fennel Salad with Mixed Fresh Greens
—Adapted from RealSimple.com

1 lb. organic beets (about 2½ large beets), peeled and cut into ½-inch wedges
3 tablespoons virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
¼ cup organic buttermilk (or use one of the dressings above)
2 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise (from Nourishing Traditions)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (such as chives, parsley, and dill)
1 bunch watercress, your favorite lettuce, or fresh mixed greens (about 6 cups)1 small organic fennel bulb, thinly sliced, plus ¼ cup chopped fennel fronds


  1. Heat oven to 400°F.
  2. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss beets with olive oil. Season with ¾ teaspoon Celtic salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Roast until tender, 18–20 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk and mayonnaise. (Or use one of the salad dressings listed above.)
  4. Add herbs, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper. Add the watercress, fennel, and beets, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the fennel fronds.

27 Lettuce-Free Salads (Because the Mix-Ins Are the Best Part)
This is a wonderful list available at Greatist.com. You’ll find a great mix of salads minus the lettuce! It’s perfect for those special salads we don’t often find recipes for. Instead of lettuce, you can use exotic and easy-to-grow herbs like dandelion greens, sage, garlic scapes, and many more. Enjoy!

An Afterthought from the Traditional Cook…

A Recipe for Salad

To make this condiment, your poet begs
The pounded yellow of two hard-boiled eggs;
Two boiled potatoes, passed through kitchen sieve,
Smoothness and softness to the salad give.
Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,
And, half suspected, animate the whole.
Of mordant mustard add a single spoon,
Distrust the condiment that bites so soon;
But deem it not, thou man of herbs, a fault,
To add a double quantity of salt.
Four times the spoon with oil from Lucca brown,
And twice with vinegar procured from town;
And, lastly, o’er the flavored compound toss
A magic soupcion of anchovy sauce.
O, green and glorious! O herbaceous treat!
’T would tempt the dying anchorite to eat:
Back to the world he’d turn his fleeting soul,
And plunge his fingers in the salad bowl!
Serenely full, the epicure would say,
“Fate cannot harm me, I have dined to-day.”

Sydney Smith (1771–1845)


To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:

  • chemical- and hormone-free meat
  • wild-caught fish
  • pasture-raised, organic eggs
  • whole, unrefined grains
  • virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
  • whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
  • pure, clean, spring water
  • sea salt
  • raw and/or cultured milk and cream products

Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.

Images from iStock/sanddebeautheil (main image), Horsche (woman holding basic of produce).

Maria Atwood, CNHP

Maria Atwood is a semiretired Certified Natural Health Professional and Weston A. Price Chapter Leader in Colorado Springs, CO. Visit her website at TraditionalCook.com. Also check out Maria’s Cook Your Way to Wellness DVD (also available as an e-learning course) and be sure to follow her Tips from the Traditional Cook blog.
Products by Maria Atwood

3 thoughts on “A Medicinal Salad Garden—Cuz the Roar of Spring Is Here!

  1. Danielle LeBaron says:

    Hello Christina. Maria asked me to reply the following:
    Actually, I know of no lettuce types that will do well in Denver or Colorado Springs in the hot summer months. Lettuce is just too delicate to withstand the heat and so you would need to plant them in a very cool protected area, and then as I understand they would not do well. What you can grow and what makes a great medicinal salad is oregano, thyme, chives and sage mixed with a nice organic whole lettuce from your health food store. Herbs you can grow all summer and into late fall and they make for super salads. Here is a link that shows some other non-lettuce greens good for the hot summer months.http://www.gardenbetty.com/2012/06/summer-lovin-salad-greens/

    Thanks for asking
    Maria Atwood, CNHP

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