Mesclun is a mixture of young greens. In addition to including lettuce, it may have things like spinach along with savory chicory and sometimes edible flowers as well. Many cultures have a tradition consuming this mixture, especially in the spring, when fresh new growth can be very refreshing after a long, dark winter. Many markets sell mesclun in their produce sections, and it is also possible to grow it at home. By growing it at home, you can control exactly which plants go into the mixture, ensuring a desired flavor.
The word comes from the Provencal French mesclom, which is derived from misculare, a Latin word meaning “to mix.” As the name implies, the primary characteristic of mesclun is that it includes a diverse mixture of greens. Because the greens are young, they tend to be extremely tender and often highly flavorful.
Greens in mesclun can include endive, chicory, frisee, dandelion greens, lettuce, spinach, sorrel, chard, mustard, arugula, radicchio, chervil, and many more. Some mixes also integrate edible flowers, which can range in flavor from spicy nasturtiums to delicate rose petals.
In addition to being flavorful and interesting, the diversity of this dish is also healthy, including a rich selection of useful dietary minerals and vitamins. This trait probably explains why mixes of young greens have historically been very popular, especially for pregnant women.
Mesclun includes a mix of tender baby greens. The traditional mix includes chervil, arugula, leafy lettuces and endive. Mixes may also include greens such as mustards, cresses and parsley as well as wild greens and all kinds of lettuce. The flavors in this colorful mix range from bitter to sweet to tangy and combine both crunchy and silky textures.
Radicchio looks like a small loose-head cabbage with red leaves with white veins. It has a bitter taste. Arugula is a member of the mustard family. It has a peppery and tangy flavor.
Unfortunately, there continue to be E. coli outbreaks linked to salad greens including lettuce and spinach. In addition to refrigerating salad greens, you'll need to follow some safe handling procedures to help avoid illness.
Pre-packaged salad greens are increasingly popular due to convenience but the possibility does exist for contamination prior to packaging. Even when bags are labeled "triple-washed" the safest practice is to wash these greens at home to remove the possibility of bacteria. This is especially important for pregnant women, young children, the elderly and others with compromised immune systems.
In addition to adding a nice crunch to a meal, salad greens have nutritional benefits.
• Researchers recently found that those over the age of 65 who ate three servings of green leafy vegetables a day increased the probability of continued mental function 40 percent longer than those who ate only one serving daily. The beneficial effect was equivalent to functioning as if they were five years younger.
• There is evidence that lutein and zeaxanthin in leafy greens may protect your eyes from sun damage as you age.
• Leafy greens are loaded with vitamin K, good for bone health. It may be linked to increasing bone density and minimizing hip fractures.