It’s just a bunch of leaves, right? Mesclun has a rather modern history compared to most of the other items in your veggie box, but a history all the same!
According to the local lore, mesclun has its roots in the farmers markets of Nice, France. The local farmers would bring their prized mixture of tender young leaves to market, which traditionally included baby dandelion, lettuce and rocket as its core. Certain mixtures would adhere to strict proportions, depending on the farm, the farmer, and the locale.
The term mesclun comes from the Provencal verb ‘mesclar’, literal translation being ‘to mix thoroughly’. This only came into popular use from the 1970’s on, while the earliest references to mesclun go back to the beginning of the 20th century.
The rise of tunnel houses and greenhouses mean we have tasty greens year-round, whereas mesclun used to be the first young leaves of the season, ushering in the new crops, then the last leaves of the season, those that wouldn’t reach maturity due to the changing conditions.
The combinations are near to limitless, depending solely upon the grower's personal preferences combined with the reality of whatever will grow in the given conditions and location.
Typical New Zealand mesclun includes endives, mache, rocket, chicory/radicchio along with Oakleaf, baby spinach, curled green and curled red lettuce.
Other additions include: Chervil, arugula, romaine, lolla rossa, frisee, tatsoi, joi choi, spinach, orach, mizuna, dandelion, mustard greens, garden cress, sorrel, fennel, chives, beet greens, Swiss chard and micro greens. If it’s green, little and tasty, you can add it to the list!
Mixed greens are a great source of Vitamin K for blood health (clotting), dietary fiber for digestion, Vitamin C for the immune system, Vitamin A carotenoids for their antioxidant affect, folate for breaking down harmful amino acids and production of red blood cells and manganese for building connective tissue and hormone regulation.
Storage: Refrigerate in the bag and do not wash until you are ready to eat it. If you wash too much and want to store the leftovers, put the remainder in a container with a dry paper towel or cloth to absorb that extra moisture. Properly stored, mesclun greens will last for about 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. Supermarket greens? 2 days. Streamside? A week, easy.
Traditional mesclun mixes
- Provencal Mesclun: lettuce, fine curled endive, rocket and chervil. The traditional recipe calls for one-part arugula, two parts chervil, one-part curly endive, and four parts lettuce. It is made up entirely of leaves, mild tasting or zesty.
- Mesclun (originated in northern France): various lettuces and endive cultivars and cress, corn salad, and spinach.
- Niçoise (originated in Nice, France): Mediterranean salad leaves including dandelion, upland cress, rocket, chicory, lettuce and curly endive.
- Mint and parsley potato hash w/ fried onion, kraut and mesclun greens w/ roasted brussel sprouts.
- Carrot, potato and parsnip minestrone soup w/ crusty garlic bread w/ caramelized onion
- Star anise and coriander seed pickled carrot w/ sesame tofu bao buns served with a hoisin broth with brussel sprouts, kale and onion.
- Kale and parsnip rosti stack w/ zest and chives sour cream whip, seeded mustard vinegarette and greens