Mesclun, or mesclun greens, refers to mixture of young lettuces. It's the basic mix of greens found in your local salad bar, on a menu at a restaurant, and in the produce aisle at the grocery store. The percentage of each leaf varies, based on whomever has created the blend, but it's always composed of the most tender leaves.
What is Mesclun?
Translated from the Portuguese verb mesclar, the word mesclun means to mix thoroughly. In this case it refers to tender leafy greens and can include arugula, endive, chervil, young red and green lettuces, baby spinach, mustard greens, frisée, mizuna, young Swiss chard, radicchio and sorrel. Young collard greens, tatsoi, dandelion greens, and garden cress may also be used. Mesclun is simply a mix of four different types of these kinds of greens.
The first known mention of this salad blend was recorded in the late 1970s in Nice, France. There, French farmers would bring green mixes to the market to sell. These mixes became the first mesclun, and the basis for the bagged varieties we see every day.
How to Use Mesclun
The best way to use mesclun is in a salad. Does the mix have spicy mustard, baby romaine, red lettuce, and tatsoi? Think about playing with flavors that compliment it, like chopped bacon with blue cheese, olives, sweet red peppers, and a sprinkling of lemon zest.
Mesclun also works great as a garnish or palate cleanser. Place a handful onto a burger instead of the usual lettuce leaves to make the dish more colorful and nutritious, or lay a piece of grilled salmon on a bed of mesclun to add flavor.
What Does Mesclun Taste Like?
Mesclun will have different flavors depending on the greens it's made with. Find your favorite combination by trying varieties of lettuce, or pick a pre-mixed bag at your local grocery store. Speak with a vendor at your local farmers' market to learn which mesclun mix would be best for your palate or menu.
Adding mustard greens into the blend will add zing and heat, endive will impart a subtle bitterness and tender crunch, frilly frisée provides a variation in leaf and adds a light bitter green note, and tender sorrel will provide lemon notes. Use the peppery bite of arugula and the herbal essence of chervil to your advantage in creating your ideal blend.
When you see a recipe call for "salad greens," use mesclun greens for color and variation.
Where to Buy Mesclun
Just about any grocery store will have lettuce blends, though they aren't always called mesclun. If you see a leafy green combo, it's a type of mesclun.
The best place to get a mesclun mix is at farmers' market where you can choose your own blend of greens This will also allow you to learn more about the nuances of each variety, as vendors can offer samples and discuss the flavors.
Keep all leafy greens in a sealed container with a damp paper towel or natural cloth. Don't wash before use, as this can make it wilt quickly. If the mesclun you buy is already bagged and washed, refrigerate it in the bag it came in until ready to use. Prepare within a few days, though some varieties will last up to a week.
Nutrition and Benefits
Like with other leafy greens, mesclun mixes are rich in vitamins A and C, with a small dose of potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, iron, and calcium.
If your mesclun mix contains a lot of baby spinach, you'll get more iron and protein. Endive offers fiber and vitamin K, and sorrel is rich in calcium and zinc. Peppery mizuna is packed with antioxidants, and baby red lettuce has lots of Vitamin K. No matter which leaves you choose, mesclun is a healthy choice.