Golden Corn Salad volunteering in the gravel patio.
I included a few photographs of Golden Corn Salad in my previous post. Karen asked if corn salad is the same as mâche, which it is, but Golden Corn Salad is actually a bit different. So I thought a post about the Golden variety would be nice to do.
"Vit" Mâche (V. locusta) growing in a pot.
First, let me say a bit about mâche. It has many aliases, including lamb's lettuce and corn salad, but the botanical name of the commonly cultivated varieties is Valerianella locusta. Mâche, under the guise of corn salad, has been in American kitchens since the 17th century (and much earlier in Europe), but it was generally collected from the wild and not really cultivated until the 18th century. The name corn salad comes from the fact that this green was commonly found growing wild in wheat fields and in England wheat was commonly referred to as corn. I don't know the derivation of the name lamb's lettuce.
More volunteers in the gravel under a bench.
Golden Corn Salad is a bit different from the common and easily found varieties. Botanically it is Valerianella eriocarpa. It is also know as Italian Corn Salad since it is native to the Mediterranean and grows wild throughout much of that area, including North Africa. Valerianella eriocarpa wasn't brought under cultivation until the 19th century.
Growing requirements are also a bit different for Golden Corn Salad. Its Mediterranean origins are evident in its cold hardiness. I don't know just what USDA zone it is hardy to, but it's supposedly not as cold tolerant as V. locusta. It does, however, survive my zone 9 winters handily (hmm, well I do live in a Mediterranean type climate zone). On the other hand, Golden Corn Salad is more heat tolerant than other corn salads so it does not bolt as quickly and can be harvested well into June and possibly July if grown in a shady spot. It doesn't seem to particularly fussy about soil, as is evident by how nicely it grows in my gravel patio!
It can grow to be quite large, up to 16 inches (supposedly), when grown in rich soil and has been used as a spinach substitute. It more commonly grows no larger than about 6 or 7 inches in diameter. I tend to sow it rather thickly so it stays even smaller. You can see how large it is growing in the pot below. It volunteered in that pot and is sharing space with a Satsuma mandarin which is on the decline. The corn salad is obviously enjoying the fertilizer that I provided for the mandarin.
The flavor of Golden Corn Salad is considered to be more mild and more nutty than it cousins. I'm not sure I can detect a huge difference, I find both types to be delicious. Both types of cornsalad are wonderful dressed with any kind of nut oil which enhances the nutty quality of the greens.You can see in the photographs that it is not truly golden, but more of light green.
So, you ask, where can you get some seeds? Well, if you are planning a trip to Europe... Or perhaps you have a friend in Europe... Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a commercial source for seeds in the States. Ok, I hear you... where did I get my seeds? The Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook, back in, oh.. I don't remember. I requested and received seeds from William Woys Weaver who is the source for all the information that I'm sharing here. Find a copy of his book 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From if you would like to learn even more. Unfortunately, he doesn't list in the exchange anymore. But... I have been saving the seeds and have a tiny bit to share with my fellow north American gardeners. Notice how most of the photos are of volunteers? Well, I was a little late in collecting my seeds last year and many of them scattered around the garden... So, first come, first served.