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Cooking 101: Basic salad greens

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Give bagged salad the heave-ho

The weather is hot and who wants to turn on the oven to make a meal? Summertime is a great time of year to learn about basic salad greens and how to work with them. When you know the basics, you'll be able to make fabulous salads that turn your friends green with envy.

Do you find yourself at the market picking up the same type of salad greens over and over? Maybe you hit the grocery store to grab a bag of salad, rip it open when you get home, toss on some dressing and call it a meal. Once you learn about the basic salad greens available, you'll be able to branch out and toss together new, green-hued delicious dishes.

There are many varieties of salad greens. The following are just some that are available: 

Arugula

Arugula

(sometimes called rocket)

Peppery and slightly bitter. A member of the mustard family. Longer arugula leaves tend to have a stronger taste. Holds up well to bold dressings and tastes great with Parmesan cheese. You can also make pesto from arugula leaves.

Belgian endive

Belgian endive

Slightly bitter to taste. When purchasing, look for compact heads with white or yellow leaves. The shape of their leaves (long and like a scoop) make them good for holding ingredients like a chicken or tuna salad mixture.

Bibb lettuce
Bib lettuce

Small, curly, delicate leaves and a sweet, mild flavor. Considered a delicacy among lettuce and can be pricey to purchase.

Boston Lettuce

Boston lettuce

(sometimes called butter lettuce)

Tender, pale green leaves with a compact head and delicate flavor. Great for salads with light dressings.

Curly endive
Curly endive

Pale green and yellow with a slightly bitter taste. This lettuce is very curly and jagged-looking and is often used combined with other lettuce as filler with a fun look.

Iceburg

Iceberg

A traditional salad green with a light color and crispness to it. Low in nutritional value and even flavor.

Radicchio

Radicchio

The typically rounded, red leaves have a slightly bitter taste. Looks similar to cabbage. Great combined with other salad greens.

Romaine

Romaine

Similar to iceberg lettuce but a bit darker in color. Mild flavor with long leaves. Typically used in Caesar salads and good with all types of dressings. Romaine lettuce has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years.

Spinach
Spinach

Deep green, tender, slightly rounded leaves. You might only be familiar with cooked spinach, but it makes a great cold salad. Can easily be mixed with other greens or kept on its own.

Spring mix

Spring mix

Originally known as mesclun. A mixture of young, tender salad greens with different colors and flavors. Often found in bagged mixtures in grocery stores. Sometimes bitter or peppery to taste, depending on which varieties are added to it.

Up next: Nutrition, tips and garnishes >>

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