One of the things we were keen to learn more about on our winter "Farm, friends and family" tour to the United States was salad greens and in particular, mesclun mixes. Lettuce alone is a wonderful vegetable, nutrient rich because leaves contain the light-catching, energy-converting machinery of plants. Lettuce contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber, and phytonutrients. And the different colours of lettuce contain different phytonutrients, unique compounds that are becoming recognized as part of a nutritious diet which promotes long-term health.
Special names for mixed greens are a part of everyday language in France and Italy. For the French, mixed greens are often described under the heading of 'mesclumo'. This has translated into the 'mesclun' mixtures available in Australia. The idea is to combine four basic flavour types through a careful mixing of greens: mild, bitter/tart, piquant, and pepper/spicy. Lettuce provides the mild flavour. Spinach, tatsoi, rocket, mustards, endives, orach, dandelion, mizuna - These are some of the rich assortment of other "greens" added to the mix to contribute to the other flavours. These greens also bring a variety of phytonutrients, making the mixture a rich assortment of life sustaining goodies! And then there is the feast to the eyes as different textures and colours mingle together.
We have been experimenting with combinations and growing techniques. Our current collection of seeds includes 28 different varieties of greens. Some are seeded in the field and some in the green house. Here are the newly germinated babies.
And while they are still young and tender, we cut and mix them all together.They are immersed in very cold water to take the heat of the sun and soil away, then spun dry. Add flowers and a light vinaigrette and you have a very flavourful, nutritiously dense salad.We are hoping to fine tune the growing process so that we can harvest enough to include mesclun in the Summer, Autumn and Spring shares.