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Find out how to make the perfect seasonal, mixed green salad, from garden to table.
What are the best greens for a mixed green salad? What seasons or months can you grow salad greens in? What are tips and tricks for making the best salad you’ve ever eaten?
If you’re searching for answers to these questions, you’re in the right place! We’d encourage you to watch the helpful video below, then finish by gobbling up the other information in this article.
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How to make the perfect mixed green salad
Here are steps and considerations for you to keep in mind on the way to making the perfect mixed green, seasonal salad:
1. Select greens for a wide variety of flavor and nutrition.
The “perfect” mixed green salad is the one you’re growing (or foraging) right now, in season. Yes, you can make great salads with just a single green such as lettuce or kale — or even wild-foraged greens like chickweed (if you don’t have a garden).
However, our personal favorite salads are made with a wide diversity of garden-fresh greens, each with their own interesting flavors, textures, and colors. That way, each bite is a unique flavor experience — and you get a wider variety of nutrients.
For instance, the salad in the above video (and photos) includes the following greens:
- mixed kale varieties (earthy and sweet)
- mixed lettuce varieties (sweet and buttery with a subtle hint of bitter)
- garden sorrel (tangy, lemon-flavored)
- frisée endive, chicory (pleasantly bitter with a light fluffy texture)
- mixed arugula varieties (spicy and peppery)
- Ethiopian mustard (spicy garlic flavor)
- red Napa cabbage (crunchy and slightly mustardy)
- pansy flowers (subtle minty-wintergreen flavor)
Again, your perfect mixed green salad should change from season to season based on what’s ready to harvest.
Below are some general flavor categories and salad greens for you to consider growing and using. Do keep in mind that each specific green is more nuanced in flavor than categorization allows for:
- garden sorrel
- sheep sorrel
- wood sorrel/Oxalis
- Napa cabbage
- creasy greens/garden cress (probably the most intensely mustard-flavored green on this list)
- hairy bittercress (a terrible name for what’s actually a very tasty wild weed)
- mustard greens
- turnip greens
- annual arugula
- perennial Sylvetta arugula, aka roquette
- radish greens
Garlic flavored greens:
- Ethiopian mustard (Brassica carinata)
- wild garlic greens (Allium vineale)
- garlic chives
- green garlic (young leaves of garlic bulbs)
Sweet and/or buttery:
- pea greens, especially Austrian winter pea greens
- spinach (also earthy and umami)
- *kale (*Different cultivars of kale taste different, especially seasonally. For instance, ‘White Russian’ kale picked during the cold months is more sweet/buttery than earthy/umami.)
- Brassica oleracea cultivars other than kale (often overlooked, interesting additions to salads include: Broccoli greens, kohlrabi greens, cauliflower greens, etc.)
- henbit (a common edible weed that tastes strangely like mushrooms)
- lamb’s quarters and other Chenopodium species
- Buckshorn plantain (a domesticated variety)
You can also make unique seasonal mixed green salads by adding small amounts of potent-flavored herbs such as:
- cilantro (which loves cool/cold weather)
- mint (which loves warm/hot weather)
- stevia leaf, which is so intensely sweet, it should be fine chopped and used sparingly.
2. Know how time and temperature affect the flavor of your plants.
Get to know your plants at all stages of their lifecycle and as the elements influence their flavor. A few examples:
Cool season crops like kale and spinach are sweetest after they’ve experienced a freeze, since the plants pump sugar into their cells to act as an antifreeze.
Lettuce can become quite bitter as it begins to flower since chemical compounds in the plants switch into “momma bear” mode in order to prevent being eaten and protect the developing flowers/seeds.
Kale can take on an almost mustardy flavor if it gets heat-stressed in late spring through early summer. It also produces delicious florets that are every bit as good — albeit much smaller — than broccoli, its sibling.
Knowing your plants at all stages gives you access to flavor dynamism that you’ll never find in grocery store produce that is picked at a universal stage of maturity.
When can you grow salad greens?
Not sure when to grow various salad greens in your garden? We’ve got you covered.
- Easiest plants to grow in the fall and winter (on GrowJourney)
- 13 garden greens you can grow in the summer in hot climates (on Tyrant Farms, our sister site)
3. Know your leaves and how to use them.
Even if the overall flavor of a mixed green salad is exceptional, you probably don’t want to spend several minutes chewing thick, fibrous leaves and stems with each bite.
As we detail in the video at the top of this article, *some leaves are best de-stemmed prior to being added to salad (examples: large kale and arugula leaves). Other leaves have stems that can actually add nice texture to a salad (example: diced Napa cabbage leaves, stems and all).
*Since we abhor food waste, please either use these leaf trimmings to make veggie soup stock, feed it to your backyard poultry, or compost it to make soil amendments.
Also, some salad green leaves are made far more palatable by a massage prior to eating. Simply add some olive oil and give them a vigorous massage by hand to help break down the fiber and soften the leaves. (See video at top of article.)
4. The perfect mixed-green salad requires the perfect condiments.
Now you’ve got a delightful assortment of mixed salad greens in a bowl. Time to eat? Not quite.
You need the right combination of condiments to bring your perfect salad together. Instead of simply going for store-bought salad dressings, look to these condiments to fill the void:
Oil – Organic extra virgin olive oil (we really enjoy this first cold-press olive oil) or organic sunflower seed oil are our favorite salad oils.
Protein/richness – Fresh-grated parmesan and fresh-crumbled feta are our two favorite cheeses to add to a salad to boost the richness. A vegetarian/vegan alternative that we also add in addition to cheese is nutritional yeast, which ads wonderful cheese-like richness and depth to salads and can be used as a cheese substitute if needed.
We also love hard boiled, diced chicken or duck eggs on a mixed green salad, especially if the salad is the meal.
Tang & bang – Balsamic vinegar (barrel-aged fig Balsamic, one of our faves), red wine vinegar, kombucha vinegar, balsamic glaze, pomegranate molasses… there are multiple ingredients that can add tang and bang to your salad.
Crunch and depth – We love nuts in a mixed green salad. Favorites include: pecans, walnuts, and pine nuts.
Salt – Don’t go crazy with the salt, but a pinch of fine Himalayan pink sea salt can bring a salad from 7 to 10-stars. Add salt to your salad to suit your taste preferences.
5. Make it beautiful.
Like it or not, we all actually judge books by their covers. That’s why lipstick and beard gel continue to sell. And why publishers put so much effort into designing book covers.
If you simply slop your salad onto a plate, your brain will find it less appealing. Since you’ve taken the time to put together the perfect mixed green salad, take equal care to make it beautiful!
To elegantly plate your salad, a dusting of fresh lemon zest, cracked pepper, and/or fresh seasonal flowers will go a long way to adding beauty and visual intrigue to your salad.
In the instructional video at the top of this article, we used pansies, our favorite winter flower, to garnish our salads. Pansies are not only strikingly beautiful, they also have a smooth velvety texture and a subtle yet delicious mint-wintergreen flavor. Perfecto!
Now you know how to make the perfect mixed green salad, from garden to table. Enjoy!