Salad Greens

Salad Greens

These are usually eaten raw, but they can also be stir-fried or steamed. They vary in nutrients, ranging from superfoods like kale, spinach, and beet greens down to arugula, butter lettuce, and the lowly iceberg lettuce, which has been described as little more than crunchy water.


Wash these and dry them (with a spinner or towels) before using, since moist leaves repel oil-based dressings. Store salad greens in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.


Varieties:

arugula
arugula
With its peppery and slightly bitter flavor, arugula is a terrific green to throw into an otherwise boring salad. It can be gently braised, too. Some supermarkets sell it in small bunches, but you're more likely to find it combined with other greens in a spring salad mix.
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Belgian endive
Belgian endive
These crunchy, slightly bitter leaves are often used to make hors d'oeuvres, but they can also be chopped and added to salads, or braised to make an exquisite (and expensive) side dish. Select heads with yellow tips; those with green tips are more bitter. Their peak season is the late fall and winter.
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Bibb lettuce
Bibb lettuce
This butterhead lettuce has delicate, loose leaves and lots of flavor. The only downside is that it's usually expensive.
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Boston lettuce
Boston lettuce
This is a type of butterhead lettuce, with soft, tender leaves. It's terrific in salads and sandwiches, or the leaves can be used as a bed for other dishes.
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butterhead lettuce
butterhead lettuce
This category includes Bibb lettuce and Boston lettuce.
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corn salad
corn salad
Corn salad has tender leaves and a very mild flavor.
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cress
cress
This is a peppery green that's great in salads, sandwiches, and soups. It's attractive enough to make a good garnish as well. There are several varieties, including watercress, upland cress, curly cress, and land cress. Cress is highly perishable, so try to use it as soon as possible after you buy it.
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curly endive
curly endive
You can use this crisp, bitter green in salads or cook it as a side dish. The outer leaves are green and somewhat bitter; the pale inner leaves are more tender and mild. Don't confuse this with Belgian endive, which the British call chicory and the French call endive.
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dandelions
dandelions
Dandelions have a somewhat bitter flavor, which Europeans appreciate more than Americans. Older dandelion greens should be cooked; younger ones can be cooked or served raw as a salad green. They're available year-round, but they're best in the spring.
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endigia
endigia
This crunchy new French variety blends sweet and bitter flavors.
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endive
endive
This category includes Belgian endive, curly endive, frisee, and escarole.
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escarole
escarole
Escarole has sturdy leaves and a slightly bitter flavor. Young escarole leaves are tender enough to add to salads, otherwise escarole is best cooked as a side dish or used in soups.
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iceberg lettuce
iceberg lettuce
This is prized for its crispness and longevity in the refrigerator, but it's a bit short on flavor and nutrients.
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leaf lettuce
leaf lettuce
With their crispness and mild flavor, these lettuces are great in salads and sandwiches.
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lettuce
lettuce
These are mild salad greens that are always served fresh, either in salads or as garnishes. There are four basic categories: iceberg lettuce, with leaves that grow in a dense "head," leaf lettuce, with loosely gathered leaves, butterhead lettuce, with tender leaves that form a soft head, and romaine lettuce, with closely packed leaves in an elongated head. Select lettuce that has rich color and crisp, fresh-looking leaves.
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lollo rosso
lollo rosso
This mild, tender lettuce has ruffled red edges.
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mizuna
mizuna
Mizuna has tender leaves and a pleasant, peppery flavor.
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oakleaf lettuce
oakleaf lettuce
Oakleaf lettuce has crunchy stems and tender leaves. There are red and green varieties.
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radicchio
radicchio
With its beautiful coloring and slightly bitter flavor, radicchio is wonderful when combined with other salad greens. You can also use the leaves as a base for hors d'oeuvres, or sauté them for a side dish. The most common variety, radicchio rosso (left), is round, while the treviso radicchio is elongated.
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red mustard
red mustard
This has a pungent, peppery flavor that adds zip to salads. You can cook it, too.
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romaine lettuce
romaine lettuce
Romaine combines good flavor and crunch, plus it has a decent shelf life in the refrigerator. It's the preferred green for Caesar salad. Green romaine is the most common variety, but you can sometimes find red romaine, which is more tender.
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spring salad mix
spring salad mix
This is a mix of different young salad greens. Commercial mixes usually include arugula, mizuna, tat soi, frisee, oakleaf, red chard, radicchio, mustard greens, and radicchio.
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tango
tango
This mild green lettuce has ruffled edges, which makes it an interesting salad lettuce
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tat soi
tat soi
This has an interesting spoon-like shape and a peppery flavor.
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trefoil
trefoil
Named for the three leaves that sprout from each stem, trefoil has a crunchy texture and aromatic flavor. It's great in salads or as a garnish in soups.
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winter purslane
winter purslane
This resembles ordinary purslane, only the leaves and stems are smaller and more delicate.
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