Mache is simply a lettuce that likes cold weather. Easily grown from seed, mache is started in the autumn and allowed to grow during the winter until it gets too hot in the following spring and bolts (flowers). Like a bib lettuce, mache is a sweet, buttery tasting rosette set of leaves, low to the ground. The leaves are so sweet that a simple drizzle of vinaigrette is all that is needed for a salad.
Although mache leaves are starting to appear in the produce section of grocery stores, it is in fact an “old” edible. The French have been cultivating it since the 17th century, which is probably where Thomas Jefferson learned of it during his visits to France and started to grow it at Monticello. Also known as lamb’s lettuce and corn salad, mache is available from most seed catalogs that offer vegetables and lettuce.
I started my seeds at the end of August in large plastic containers on the deck because our Virginia August is so hot and dry that I wanted to be able to water consistently and easily with a watering can. Once the seedlings came up and the weather cooled down in October, I moved the transplants to a garden bed. This picture was taken in late January after many snow showers, icy rains, and temperatures in the teens. It will grow bigger as temperature and day length increases. I have heard it can tolerate zero degrees and I like the fact that I don’t need to cover it with a plastic hoop. Mache is very nutritious, it has more omega 3 than any other leafy green except for purslane and it contains lutein (promotes eye health). It is high in vitamin A, C, and zinc, and provides almost as much iron as spinach but does not contain spinach’s oxalic acid (oxalic acid interferes with calcium absorption). Don’t forget to include a package of mache seeds with your seed order this year. You Can Grow That!
You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Gardeners usually post articles on their blog on the fourth day of the month (fourth day, four words: #1: You; #2: Can; #3: Grow; #4: That). Click on the logo below to read more posts.