Mesclun is a salad mix of assorted small, young salad leaves which originated in Provence, France. The name comes from Provençal mescla, and literally means “mixture.” The traditional Provençal mesclun includes chervil, arugula, leaf lettuces, and endive in equal proportions. Modern American iterations may include an undetermined mix of fresh and available leaf lettuces, spinach, arugula, chard, mustard greens, dandelion, curly endive, escarole, mizuna, mâche (lamb’s lettuce), radicchio, sorrel, chicory, watercress, parsley, purslane, fennels, and other leafy green vegetables. Butterhead, Romaine, leaf, and crisphead lettuces, the four kinds of lettuce, often are all represented in popular mesclun blends. Lettuces are most common in the milder blends. Piquant, peppery mescluns include such things as sharp arugula, tangy mustards, spicy watercress, and zesty chicory. Even edible flowers or their petals–bachelor’s buttons, calendulas, chive blossoms, marigolds, nasturtiums and violets–may be part of a mesclun mix. (You can see the yellow petal of a giant marigold in my mesclun picture.)
In Hawaii, similar greens are grown in the region of Waimanalo on the windward side of Oahu. Because of their origin, a similar salad mix called “Nalo Greens” is popular in Hawaiian cuisine.
Because its short life span after harvest, baby greens were originally sold relatively close to where they were grown. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was no such thing as bagged salad mix on store shelves in America. Lettuce was something that was sold by the head. However, growers in California and elsewhere experienced 30-50% loss in the field, due to factors that made the heads unmarketable. So cutting it was a way of getting something marketable out of what would otherwise be left in the field. Growers soon realized that they could make more money selling it as salad mix than as heads.
The nutritional profiles of mixed baby greens differs due to variations in the greens included in each particular mix. Earthbound Farms Organic Spring Mix contains the organic baby lettuces red and green Romaine, red and green oak leaf, Lollo Rosa, and Tango; organic mizuna, organic red and green chard, organic baby spinach, organic arugula, organic frisée (curly endive), and organic radicchio. (The ingredients in each package may vary.)
A 2-cup portion (3 ounces or 85 grams) contains 20 calories, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein and zero grams of fat. This portion size of baby spring mix also has 70 milligrams of sodium and zero milligrams of cholesterol. It provides 90% of the daily value, or DV, of vitamin A and 40 50% of the DV of vitamin C, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. It has 20% of the DV of iron and 8% of the DV of calcium per 2-cup serving.
My favorite place to buy mixed baby greens is at the farmers market. Find a vendor who grows organic baby greens and sells them in bags or lets you bag it yourself. Ask if it is pre-washed. In the store, choose baby greens whose leaves are crispy and bright in color. Avoid sunken leaves with spots or discoloration. Regardless of the type, all baby greens should feature crispy, fresh leaves that are free of dark or slimy spots.
You obviously need not wash mixed baby greens that have been pre-washed. If the baby greens have not been pre-washed, thoroughly wash them to remove any sand. You can spin dry with a salad spinner or pat dry with a towel. Store in a perforated plastic bag with a damp paper towel or in a damp cloth bag to keep slight moisture. Store in the refrigerator. Mixed baby lettuce greens will stay fresh for up to two to three days.
Raw, fresh baby greens are delicious in salads, spring rolls, and sandwiches.