salad greens

Salad Greens (aka Lettuce) have been cultivated for over 2,500 years and over these years numerous varieties have been grown. In fact, the number of foods in the average produce section of a supermarket has gone from 65 to over 300 in the past 20 years. Many of these new foods are used in making salads. Salad greens come in all shapes, textures and colors.

Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the salad green choices you may find in your local markets:

  • Mild Salad Greens: These leafy greens are all great choices for young children who are just starting out eating salads.
  • Iceberg: A true American favorite. Crisp and hardy iceberg lasts up to two weeks in the fridge and is inexpensive. It packs a great crunch for salads, but not much flavor.
  • Butterhead – aka Boston, Butter or Bibb: Butterhead varieties have loose-packed, ruffled leaves. The leaves have a tender, soft texture that work beautifully in salads, especially with delicate dressings. Look for fancy varieties with pale green and red-tinged leaves.
  • Green or Red Leaf Lettuce: Don’t look for a “head” here; the leaves branch from a single stalk. Leaf lettuce has a pleasant and mild taste. The smaller varieties (“baby lettuce”) are quite tender.
  • Romaine: With its long, slightly bitter leaves and sturdy, sweeter center ribs, romaine provides a robust crunch to any meal. Some consider romaine the most flavorful lettuce variety and is one of the best vegetable sources of beta-carotene.
  • Bok Choy: Often used in Asian stir fries, this is a great tasting cabbage-flavored leaf that’s a good source of vitamin A and C. Its mild flavor and terrific crunch make it a great choice for a summer salad.
  • Spinach: After iceberg lettuce, spinach is the most popular salad green in the USA. Everyone knows Popeye got all of his strength from eating his spinach. Need we say more?

Stronger Flavored Salad Greens: These leafy greens can add a splash of pizzazz to the mild salad greens. However, they may have too big a bite for younger children.

  • Mesclun – aka baby greens: this leafy variety is quite popular on restaurant menus, mesclun simply means “mixed” in French and is composed of several varieties of wild-harvested, young greens.
  • Endive: It’s slightly bitter and a little crisp. The long, slender leaves can transform a salad into a still- life masterpiece. Endive is full of fiber and folate. Chicory, or Frisee in French, is a curly, feathery version of endive with a similar flavor punch.
  • Oak Leaf – aka Salad Bowl: Oak Leaf Lettuce has a spicy and nutty flavor. The leaves are paddle- shaped; resembling an oak leaf. They have a velvety texture and are a pretty addition to any salad, but the leaves wilt easily with dressing.
  • Arugula – aka Rocket: Has long, spiked, dark green leaves and a peppery flavor. Arugala is quite pungent. In general, larger leaves tend to be stronger tasting. Arugula is a great source of bone-building calcium and magnesium.
  • Watercress: Banded in small bunches at the market; this small, leafy green has a distinct, lively pleasant taste.

Salad Greens for the Family

At the market: You want to buy salad greens that have been picked recently. A great place to buy salad greens is a Farmer’s Market or Farm Stand. Look for clean, fresh looking cut ends. You don’t want anything that looks rusty, dried-out, or wilted. Crisp, bright looking leaves are good too. Firm or solid feeling heads of lettuce are best.

Storage at home: For wilt-free lettuce with maximum crunch thoroughly wash and dry your lettuce as soon you bring it home. Roll the leaves in several layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, seal in a plastic bag, and store in the “crisper” of your refrigerator for up to 1 week. Iceberg lettuce will keep up to 2 weeks.

Simple, delicious salad green ideas for the whole family:

Lettuce Cups: Both Boston and Bibb lettuce make perfect “cups” for grilled fish, shrimp or tofu. Serve with diced vegetables and your favorite salad dressing to drizzle on top. These lettuce cups also make “green” taco shells, just fill them up with all your favorite taco fix-ens – muy delicioso!

Tossed Salads: Iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and onions are the traditional ingredients for a tossed salad. There are many more exciting options. Starting with a nice variety of salad greens in your bowl, add a few mix-in items and you’ll transform the tired tossed salad into a great side dish. Here are some of our favorite tossed salad mix-in combinations:

  • Cooked corn, black beans, diced red peppers, and crumbled tortilla chips
  • Mandarin oranges, diced green onions, and blanched almond pieces
  • Diced pears, chopped dates, crumbled blue cheese and chopped walnuts
  • Green apple slices, dried cranberries, and cheddar cheese cubes
  • Mango slices, grilled shitake mushrooms, and sesame seeds

Dressing Up Your Tossed Salad: A great tossed salads is nothing without a delicious dressing. Homemade salad dressings are simple to make, taste better, and are much healthier than the store- bought bottles.

To make homemade salad dressing, simply start with a container that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the dressing ingredients from one of the recipes below to the container, cover it and give it a good shake. It’s that easy!

Classic French Dijon:

  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • pinch of salt & pepper

Creamy Dill:

  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp chopped green onions
  • 1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • pinch of salt & pepper

Sweet Balsamic:

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • pinch of salt & pepper


  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar

Lemon Garlic:

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of salt & pepper

Fattoush Salad: This is a refreshing Middle Eastern chopped salad with a lemony zip. Chop or dice all of the ingredients into small pieces, so each forkful contains a complete variety of delicious flavors.


  • 2 pita breads
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, washed and dried
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tbsp mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
  • ¼ – ½ cup Lemon Garlic Dressing (recipe above)

Directions: Toast pita breads until well done, cool, and break/crush into small pieces. Set aside. Chop lettuce into very small pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, including the pita pieces. Pour Lemon Garlic Salad dressing over the salad and toss to combine all the flavors well. Serve.

Bok Choy Slaw: This cabbage is a staple in Asia and when you make this Asian-inspired cole slaw, you will know why it’s a huge favorite.


  • 2 bunches baby bok choy, cleaned
  • 4 – 6 green onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 1 (3 ounce) package ramen noodles, crushed
  • Sesame Dressing (recipe above)

Directions: Shred or slice bok choy into small, thin pieces (like cabbage for cole slaw). Combine the bok choy, green onions, almonds, and ramen noodles in a salad bowl. Toss with dressing and let stand for a 15 minutes. Serve.