What Are Salad Greens?

Mary McMahon

Salad greens are leafy greens which are used to make salads. Lettuce is a common and well known example of a salad green, but other greens ranging from arugula to mustard greens can appear in salads. Many cultures have along history of the cultivation and collection of greens for use in salads, since leafy greens are beneficial to human health and digestion. Some people also greatly enjoy their flavor, especially when paired with other ingredients.

Chard is a colorful salad green.
Chard is a colorful salad green.

Some other examples of salad greens include rocket, cress, endive, chicory, lamb's lettuce, frisee, escarole, dandelion greens, mustard, sorrel, miner's lettuce, tat soi, taratezak, trefoil, purslane, spinach, chard, kale, and fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, chives, cilantro, and parsley. Greens can vary in flavor from mild to zesty, and they are often crunchy and crisp. Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale provide a great deal of nutrition, while more mild lettuces such as iceberg have minimal nutritional value, but a pleasing crunch which can add contrast and dimension to a salad.

Salad greens.
Salad greens.

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Many greens have traditionally been collected in the wild; humans have been experimenting with edible greens for thousands of years. In some regions, the seasonal appearance of favorite greens is a cause for celebration, with a number of traditional dishes featuring special seasonal greens. Other greens are cultivated commercially and sold in markets and greengrocers all over the world.

Bibb lettuce may be used as salad greens.
Bibb lettuce may be used as salad greens.

Many markets offer salad mixes which feature an assortment of greens. A salad mix is a convenient way to purchase greens since it blends textures and flavors in a neat package, rather than forcing the cook to purchase multiple whole greens which may go bad before they are used. Salad mixes are also sometimes packaged with dressings and other salad ingredients like croutons, bacon bits, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, olives, cheese, and numerous other things.

Chicory leaves can be used in salads.
Chicory leaves can be used in salads.

Some people also like to grow salad greens at home in a small patch which can be harvested as needed. Many greens take well to container gardening, so they can be grown on a porch, roof, or stoop in an area with limited space. Even a windowbox could be used to support a small collection of greens, and in some areas greens can be encouraged to grow year round so that they are always available.

Escarole.
Escarole.

When purchasing salad greens in the store, look for crisp specimens without any signs of discoloration, slime, or wilting. Always wash salad greens before using them to remove residual materials, and try to use them within a day or two for maximum flavor and freshness.

Frisee.
Frisee.
Kale is a salad green that offers plenty of nutrition.
Kale is a salad green that offers plenty of nutrition.
Sorrel leaves, a type of salad green.
Sorrel leaves, a type of salad green.
Oregano can be used in salad greens to add a bit of flavor.
Oregano can be used in salad greens to add a bit of flavor.
Parsley is an example of a salad green.
Parsley is an example of a salad green.
There are many types of lettuce that are popular salad greens.
There are many types of lettuce that are popular salad greens.
Arugula leaves.
Arugula leaves.

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Discussion Comments

pleonasm

Unfortunately, most types of lettuce don't have all that much to offer in terms of vitamins. It's the dark leafy vegetables, like watercress and swiss chard that are full of good stuff. Lettuce contains fiber though.

And some lettuce types have nutrients. Butterhead lettuce has much more vitamin K and folate than iceberg lettuce, for example.

Plus, lettuce has no fat and it tastes good.

pastanaga

I love salad greens. I always think of ancient people who probably just wandered around the forest munching on leaves. They are so healthy for you.

Are some kinds of lettuces better for you than others? Or are the different types of lettuce all pretty much the same in terms of nutrition?

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