Our Top Gardening Books: “Salad Leaves” by Charles Dowding

“Salad Leaves For All Seasons. Organic Growing From Pot to Plot”

Charles Dowding has devoted himself to growing vegetables. He is known as the “guru of no-dig” and grows delicious, healthy, organic crops. After growing a few salad varieties and them becoming bestsellers he started to experiment with a wide range of salads, different seeds, sowing dates, picking methods and growing media to discover new flavours, shapes and colours at all different times of year.

Salad leaves are super easy and quick to grow – making them the perfect beginner vegetable. If you look after them well, they will provide long successions of harvests, without having to sow and plant again. You also don’t need a big garden to grow salads; you can grow them in small spaces and containers. Dowding’s book will guide you through the process and everything you need to know for you to be able to grow juicy salad leaves, full of flavour.

Charles not only teaches you how to grow salads, a whole chapter is devoted to incredible recipes, going through all the months of the year. This is May’s recipe:

Whole roasted lettuce salad with nettle pesto

This recipe combines homegrown overwintered lettuce with fresh foraged shoots of spring nettles. The addition of sunflower and pumpkin seeds makes this simple salad a delicious main course, served with crusty bread. You will need:

  • 1 whole firm, crunchy lettuce such as Grenoble Red
  • olive or sunflower oil
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds


  • 125g nettle tops
  • 100g sunflower seeds
  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 125ml sunflower or olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C (Gas Mark 4).

Cut the lettuce into quarters and place in an oven dish. Drizzle over a little oil and and the cider vinegar. Sprinkle the seeds on top and roast in the oven until cooked, 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the pesto. Spread the seeds across a baking tray. Toast them in the oven, checking every few minutes to make sure they don’t burn. Remove after 5 minutes or so and allow to cool. Steam the nettle tops, cool and then place in a blender with the seeds, oil, lemon juice, garlic and a little salt and pepper. Process until everything has been puréed, adding a little water if necessary. Season according to taste.

Arrange the roasted lettuce on a dish, drizzle some of the pesto over the top and serve with crusty bread.

Get your copy of “Salad Leaves For All Seasons” here.






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