French Baby Greens
A mesclun mix is a delightful bunch of tender greens that you will frequently find in French salads. You now
get it year round at the grocery store in a prepackaged mix, but originally people gathered the young leaves
that make up mesclun in the fields in the south of France during the springtime and early summer.
When we lived in Corsica, every spring our landlord would gather wild lettuce that he found growing in the field behind our house. I'm not sure what kind of lettuce he was picking, but there are a variety of wild lettuce that can be used in composing mesclun.
It all started with the Monks
The story goes that Mesclun originated at the Cimiez monastery in Nice where the Franciscan monks were so poor they had nothing to offer in return for the alms that they received from the locals. One story goes that they couldn't even get anything to grow in their garden that was worth sharing, so they took to the fields and gathered a variety of wild leaves to make a salad, and thus Mesclun was begun.
Nowadays Mesclun can be made from a wide variety of colorful young leaves, and what you find in a store is grown, not harvested wild. If you find packaged mixed greens, look carefully that they are not starting to wilt and grow soggy. Some leaves you may find in your Mesclun mix are (in no particular order):
How to Best Enjoy Mesclun
- Escarole (Scarole)
- Chicory (Chicorée)
- Lamb's Lettuce (Mache)
- Dandelion Greens (Pissenlit)
- Chervil (Cerfeuil)
- Young Spinach (Epinard)
- Radicchio (Trévise)
- Arugula (Roquette)
- Purslane (Pourpier) - also known as miner's lettuce.
- Oak Leaf (Feuille de Chene)
Mixed baby greens are so flavorful that you don't want to cover their taste with a heavy salad dressing. Better to go with a drizzle of vinaigrette, which will be all the better if you make it yourself.
You could also try adding croutons, smoked salmon, warm goat cheese, crumbled bacon, or toasted nuts.
Growing Your Own
Because they are eaten when still young, you can quickly enjoy the greens in mesclun if you should decide to grow your own. You'll find several different and fun kits for growing your own mesclun on the market.
Make a salad of mixed greens, pour on a fresh vinaigrette, add a loaf of whole grain bread, a good French cheese, and a glass of wine and you'll have a perfect light and easy meal ready in no time.
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