The salad greens commonly known as "spring mix" originated in France and are known in French as Mesclun. Mixed greens simply refers to a combination of the first tender young greens that appear in the garden in the spring. Popularized in French farmer's markets, where local growers would boast their unique springtime blends, mixed salad greens arrived to the US food scene in the 1980s. Varieties of greens that are grown in Vermont include arugula, spinach, endive, pea and sunflower shoots, dandelion greens, mustard greens, watercress, and various leafy lettuces.
There are a wide variety of salad greens available in Vermont, spanning across several plant families, each bearing a unique history.
Arugula is a spicy, mustard-like plant that is currently grown as a “specialty green” in Vermont. It is a member of one of the dominant families in our food system: Brassicaceae; broccoli, kale and rutabagas are also in this family. It is native to Europe and western Asia and was introduced to the United States by the colonists.
Lettuce is a member of the family Asteraceae, along with artichokes, marigolds and sunflowers. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean and boasts over 100 varieties. Thousands of years ago, it was most likely grown for the oil its seeds produced. Christopher Columbus introduced varieties of lettuce to North America during his second voyage in 1493.
Spinach is a member of the family Amaranthaceae, along with beets, chard and quinoa. It is native to Persia and was not introduced to the Greeks and Romans until the Moors brought it to Spain in the 11th century.
- Arugula: An excellent source of vitamin A, B9 (folic acid) and C and the minerals magnesium, manganese and calcium. It is a very good source of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and the minerals copper, iron and potassium.
- Lettuce: Most varieties are rich in B9 (folic acid) and the mineral potassium. Romaine lettuce is typically viewed as the most nutrient-rich. It is an excellent source of vitamin A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B9 (folic acid) and C, as well as the minerals chromium and manganese.
- Spinach: An excellent source of vitamin A, B9 (folic acid) and C. It is a very good source of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and the minerals iron, magnesium and manganese.
Kid-Friendly Eating Tips
- Give arugula pesto a try as a sandwich spread!
- Use bib or butterhead lettuce as a wrap.
- Sauté chard, collards, pac choy or spinach with fresh garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper; serve it on its own or add to scrambled eggs, soup, or a baked dish.
- Toss pea or sunflower shoots in with a pasta dish or potato salad.
- Taste test a variety of dressings on any type green.
Selection & Storage Tips
- Choose firm, richly green leaves and avoid limp, yellowing or brown-edged greens.
- Arugula and Lettuce: store 2-5 days in the fridge, depending on the variety; place in a perforated plastic bag, loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel or place in an airtight container.
- Spinach: stores 4-5 days in the fridge