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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.