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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Growing Mâche for Fall and Winter Salads

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was planning my fall garden. One of the plants I mentioned is called mâche, also known as corn salad, also known as lamb's lettuce. Since mâche is not one of the common vegetables in the US, I thought I'd tell you a bit more about it.

Mâche is better known in Europe, often found in markets in the spring. Some say the name lamb's lettuce is due to the fact that it is available during the spring lambing season. Others say that the name lamb's lettuce comes from the fact that it was commonly found wild in pasture land where sheep grazed. In addition to growing wild, mâche is cultivated for sale in most of Europe. Mâche grows in compact rosette form and is used both raw in salads and cooked in soups and stews. It prefers the cooler months, often planted in very early spring or in the fall after the hot weather has abated for the year.

Many gardeners in Europe and Scandinavia grow mâche in a poly tunnel-style greenhouse in the winter months. While it may not put on much growth during the shortest days, it will hold in a bed under a clear cover such as what a poly tunnel can provide. If planted outdoors in the elements, it is cold hardy to about 5 degrees F (although it needs temps of between 50 and 70 for seed germination). Mâche is considered one of the most cold hardy vegetables. In my area, where overnight lows rarely reach the teens, mâche will hold in my garden, even under snow. In late winter to early spring, it should begin to put on new growth, which can be eaten, before bolting.

I started my seeds a little over a week ago indoors inside a damp paper towel. Earlier this week I noticed the seeds were sprouting, so I very carefully transferred the seeds into soil and am keeping the tiny plants under lights. Our very hot weather appears to be over for the summer, according to the weather forecasters. We may have a week of high 70s to low 80s later this month. I will be keeping the mâche under lights indoors until the last week of August, then I will transplant the small plants into a garden bed. I'll also be starting a second batch of these seeds in another 2 weeks and then again a third batch about 1 month from now, and a final batch sometime in late September, to prolong my harvest and have some of the leafy greens holding in the garden through winter under a row cover. I expect to be able to begin harvesting the leaves in about a month, adding to our September salads. Mâche can either be harvested one leaf at a time, in a cut and come again fashion, or by cutting the plant off at the base. Since I want to maximize my harvest, I'll pluck a few leaves at a time, leaving time for more to develop. It's flavor is nutty and its texture is like butterhead lettuce.

Mâche is said to make an excellent green manure, tilling in the remains of the plants after harvest. So, I'll try that as well, instead of digging up the plants and throwing on the compost heap.

So that's mâche. Have you ever tried this leafy green?


  1. Mache is a new one for me. Have you eaten it before? What does it taste like?

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Yes, I've had it before, a long time ago from someone else's garden. I haven't been able to find it in markets. I did try growing it almost 30 years ago, without success. Of course, I didn't know anything about gardening back then. So I'm hoping I can do much better this time around, especially with the internet to offer info and advice. It's slightly nutty, as I recall. But it was its texture that I really enjoyed. Lovely in a salad.
      I'll update as it grows and I harvest my own.

  2. It's flavor is nutty and its texture is like butterhead lettuce.

    1. Hi friend,
      Yes, thank you. You quoted me exactly.

  3. I love mache! I spent a year studying in France in college, and discovered it there.
    - Tina

    1. Hi Tina,
      Oh how interesting. My gardening friend from many, many years ago had lived in both France and Belgium. Now I wonder if that's where she first learned of this leafy green.
      What a wonderful experience you must've had studying in France!

  4. I haven't tried mache but will put it on my list of things to try.

    I am curious about your greenhouse that you mentioned way back. Is it an indoor one? Would you mind sharing the link or telling me which post you shared it on? I typed in greenhouse in your search bar but it didn't recognize it. Thank you Lili!

    1. Hi Ruthie,
      I'll continue to update on growing mâche. So far, so good. Haven't killed it yet.
      About the greenhouse -- it's a tall and narrow, plastic covered metal frame that makes for a portable green house. I have it on the deck just outside the kitchen door against an exterior wall. I first posted about it here:
      I also have an indoor set-up, a multi-tiered light garden. I begin my seeds under the lights indoors. I also grow leafy veggies in winter under the lights. I use the greenhouse for hardening off seedlings in early spring. It's generally been the place where I get my little plants to a larger size before the garden is warm enough. I may try to grow veggies in the greenhouse this winter in large trays.
      On top of those two gardening tools, I also use low to the ground, plastic covered hoops. I'm planning on putting some mâche under the hoops and some out. in the open to see what works best without overdoing it. I'll keep you updated.

  5. I was also wondering about the taste. Sounds like a green that I would like. I don't care for strong tasting greens but this sounds mild and definitely more versatile to work with than lettuce.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Mâche is lightly nutty, if I remember correctly. Yes, the texture was "sturdier" than lettuce, so it looks like it would hold up in soups where lettuce wouldn't. But I'm mostly planning on growing it as a salad green for the colder months when we miss salads the most.


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