Mild tasting with a slightly nutty flavor, mâche makes a pleasant addition to salads. Considered a gourmet green today, this humble plant was harvested centuries ago as a weed growing between rows of grain crops in Europe where it became known as corn salad. Today, some nursery catalogs carry seeds of a few varieties; it is sometimes sold as seedlings for transplanting.
- Like many lettuces, mâche is a cool-season crop that tolerates Sonoma County’s winter temperatures.
- Also called lamb’s lettuce for its spoon-shaped, lamb’s-tongue-shaped leaves, mâche grows as a small, 3-6 in. rosette with short, delicate stems.
- Recognized primarily for its value in salads with a light vinaigrette dressing, mâche may also be added to stir fries and soups.
In the Garden
- When purchasing mâche seeds, look for small- or large-size seeds. Small seeds develop into 2-5 in. rosettes considered more flavorful than large-seeded, 4-8 in. varieties. Larger varieties are considered easier to handle and harvest.
- Plant in early spring to harvest before weather warms or plant in late summer to harvest in fall and into early winter.
- Follow directions on packets when sowing seeds. Plant in sun or part shade in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil in garden beds or in wide containers that accommodate several plants.
- Keep soil evenly moist until germination, and then allow it to dry between waterings; mulch with compost or a finely chopped organic material.
- Thin after seedlings have 3-4 true leaves, allowing 2-6 in. spacing, depending on expected mature sizes. Ample air circulation is needed to prevent disease.
- Expect these small greens to form rosettes in loose bunches that remain close to the ground.
- Remove any weeds that appear to prevent competition with shallow mâche roots.
- In general, cool-season crops are threatened by fewer insect pests and plant diseases than warm-season crops, but watch for snails and slugs. Hand pick or scatter non-toxic repellant to control. Spray aphids with a strong stream of water to dislodge or see link below.
When to Harvest
- When rosettes are filled out, cut close to the ground or slightly beneath the soil to maintain rosette shape, leaving roots undisturbed to replenish organic matter in the soil.
- Or pick individual leaves once they reach a desirable size by clipping thin stems with a scissors in a cut-and-come-again approach also used for leaf lettuce.
- Store up to 1 week in the refrigerator crisper.
- Keep an eye on greens planted in spring as the weather warms. Large-seed varieties are more heat tolerant, but all types bolt, i.e. go to seed, quickly in hot conditions.
- Opt to allow bolting for seed formation in lieu of harvesting greens. Mâche self-sows readily.