Give two words to describe salad greens. (I'll give you a minute to think.) Let me guess, the first word you came up with was green. What was the next word? Boring or bitter? Let me rock your world by introducing you to salad greens that will take your salad beyond iceburg and romaine by adding diversity to your plate.
12 salad greens that you should know:
Hold up a minute, you say. Isn't amaranth a grain? Yes, you're absolutely correct, it is. However, in West Indian cooking, amaranth leaves are used interchangeably with spinach. You're going to love the vibrant color and texture that these leaves bring to your plate.
2. Baby beet greens
You may already be familiar with beet greens, but I prefer the tender baby version. (True confession: This may be due to the fact that I'm terribly impatient and can't wait for the leaves to mature.)
3. Dandelion greens
Most folks with a lawn will tell you that dandelions are weeds. Don't be fooled! They're fantastically nutritious and readily available to even novice foragers.
Because of their bitter taste some chefs prefer to cook escarole, but a few sprinkled in your salad will balance well with other flavors.
5. Frisee (a.k.a. chickory)
This salad green can also be bitter, so if you prefer less bitter greens then opt for the escarole (broad leaf) variety.
6. Mache (a.k.a. Lamb's lettuce)
Sweet, nutty, tender and juicy. Is your mouth watering yet? Well then, you're definitely going to enjoy mache.
7. Mixed herbs
Keep salad flavors lively by sprinkling in chopped basil, oregano, dill, marjoram, or other fresh, savory herbs.
A staple of Asian cooking, Mizuna will not overwhelm your salad. Mizuna is spicy but not as strongly spicy as arugula.
9. Nasturtium leaves
I love the fact that these leaves look like lily pads. Their taste is similar to watercress.
10. Sweet potato leaves
Of course you're familiar with the orange sweet potato. But it's not only the potato that's tasty--its leaves are delicious and nutritious. In the U.S. we have been slow to discover sweet potato leaves, but they're a popular salad green throughout other parts of the world. These leaves are less bitter and have a softer texture than kale.
Like amaranth greens, use tatsoi interchangeably with spinach. Tatsoi's taste is mild with hints of mustard. (And, of all salad greens, tatsoi is by far the most fun to say. Go ahead: Say it five times, fast.)
This small green is slightly bitter with a mild peppery taste. It will taste milder when picked young and have a stronger flavor when left in the garden longer.
Oh, and did I mention that you can grow ALL of these salad greens NOW?
Yes, you heard me correctly. I know that in many parts of the country temperatures have dropped. You may have heard that salad greens seeds germinate best at temperatures around 60 degrees. This isn't wrong, but it shouldn't deter determined gardeners like me who live in chillier climates. Using a shade net or garden hoops covered with garden fabric will allow you to create a micro-climate that your salad greens will love.
Good news for apartment dwellers: Salad greens grow well in containers so if your growing space is tight you can still enjoy a homegrown salad.
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