Published: 09 July 2024

You’d never know it from the recent weather, but it’s actually salad season! And we love a good, grown-up salad, with plenty of crunch and savour. But far too often, salad can be a little… well… boring. With lettuce, tomato, and cucumber shoved on the side of a plate as token greens, salad is often an afterthought. But with a little bit of imagination, you can make your salads into something delicious, nutritious, and wholly original.

Five Ingredients to Give Your Salads a Lift This Summer

Edible flowers

Edible flowers, such as nasturtiums, pansies, and cornflowers, are often viewed as simply garnish. But they can also add a really interesting flavour to a salad. Nasturtiums bring a peppery flavour, a little like rocket. Not surprisingly, chive flowers carry a very mild oniony flavour. Most herb flowers taste like a slightly stronger version of their leaves. Calendula (not to be mistaken for marigolds, taste a little like saffron. While pansies have a touch of mint about them and young dandelions taste like honey. Do your research. Make sure that you’re only using edible species. Then make the most of what your garden has to offer.

Sunflowers

Now, you might think that sunflowers could be included in the section above, but there’s a whole lot more to the sunflower than meets the eye. Yes, you can sprinkle the petals on your salad for a bit of colour and flavour. And toasted sunflower seeds can elevate any salad to a whole new level. But if you take an unopened sunflower bud and either sautée or steam it, you can mix it into your salad for a beautifully nutty, artichoke-like flavour.

Nettles

When you think of nettles, it’s painful stings that come to mind. But nettles are actually incredibly nutritious. Packed with vitamins C, A, and B, protein, iron, calcium, magnesium, silicon, potassium, manganese zinc, copper, and chromium, they carry more nutrients than most green veg. And they have an amazing fresh flavour, like a cross between spinach and cucumber. They are regularly added to salads and eaten raw in Turkey. Or you can blitz them up with olive oil, lemon, garlic, and white wine vinegar to make a deliciously zingy salad dressing.

Pomegranate seeds

Pomegranates aren’t all that unusual, but in the UK, more often than not, we eat them as standalone fruits. But mixed into a salad, they add a burst of flavour and an appealing texture. Giving a juicy brightness to every bite. They also give you a healthy dollop of vitamin C, magnesium, and folate, so they’re another healthy choice. Not a fan of the pomegranate texture? Try mixing in blueberries for a similar fruity burst.

Seaweed

OK, before we start here, we must just say – don’t just go to the beach and help yourself. You need a special license to harvest seaweed in the UK. And some seaweeds are better eating than others. But if you want to add a real salty, umami punch to your salads, wakame, arame or hijiki is hard to beat. You can either mix a little in with your usual ingredients, or search for a dedicated seaweed salad recipe.

All of these ingredients can work in a variety of ways. You can follow recipes or make up your own, adding sunflowers or nettles to your favourite foods. Meat, fish, cheese, squash, and other roasted veg. Add in some pasta or maybe some pulses. Whatever appeals to you, the idea is to bring your salads back to life. And fill your plate with some nutritious flavour sensations.

So, what’s your favourite salad ingredient? Head to the Holker Hall café to find out ours!