I was once confused about what Mesclun lettuce is, how to prepare it, and even how to pronounce it! But with the publishing of this article, I can now say that those days are but a distant, foggy memory.
The problem stems mostly from the fact that the name is often confused with mescaline — not something you want showing up on a restaurant menu!
Luckily for you, I decided to put together this guide so you can prepare it quickly without having to research the subject yourself. Get ready to master the most versatile side dish.
It’s healthy, it’s tasty, and you can add it to any of your recipes.
But first, there are a few key facts that you should get straight before attempting to prepare Mesclun. Let’s have a look at the original recipe, variations, and uses.
Mesclun Vs Mesculin
Mesclun greens are composed of assorted salad greens and other vegetables. There are some basic variations to it, and the preparation is relatively simple. It allows you to experiment with some new ingredients or alternatives.
The name of this side dish is pronounced meh·skluhn, and it was first used in 1976. The word Mesclun derives from the Province dialect’s term mesclar, which describes a mixture, or the action of mixing thoroughly.
Initially, this salad mix was sold by local farmer’s markets in the Nice region in France.
We will have a look at more modern ingredients in a second, but initially, this mix was composed of baby dandelion, lettuce, and rocket (aka arugula).
The mix was so popular that it was adopted by the farmer’s markets in America in the early 1980s, only a few years after the term was coined. The American version includes different types of green compared to the French one, herbs, and alternative vegetables such as bok choy.
However, be careful not to confuse the term Mesclun with Mescaline, which is a psychedelic drug popular in the 1960s pop culture. This hallucinogen creates effects similar to the ones produced by LSD, peyote, and mushrooms.
Quite different from lettuce, don’t you think?
The hallucinogen Mescaline is extracted from the Peyote Cactus, where it occurs naturally. Not that this information is of use to anyone, however, as Mescaline is illegal in America.
Confusing the two terms is quite common; you can even spot the mistake on some restaurant’s menus!
Moreover, similar terms such as Mesculin can be found over the Internet to indicate a mix similar to the Mesclun salad. Some believe that this term is the Latin derivation of the word Mesclun. While there is no confirmation that this is the case, some Mesclun mix producers use the term Mesculin to describe their products.
The main thing to take away from this is that Mesclun and Mesculin are basically referring to the same thing.
Mesclun Mix- The Most Traditional Recipes
As we have seen, the original mix has developed over the years to adapt to modern culinary needs. Some bold alterations include Eastern or Asian spices and greens.
That’s exactly what I like the most about this salad. It’s so easy to prepare in addition to being customizable. The mix of Mesclun leaves can’t go wrong, as you can season it and modify it as you prefer!
Here we are going to look at the most traditional recipes and some alternatives that can inspire your future Mesclun salads!
The Three Original Recipes
These three recipes all come from French regions, but they are easily distinguishable because of the different ingredients used.
Let’s have a look at how to prepare the best authentic French Mesclun mix!
· Provencal Mesclun
This is the original recipe and also my favorite! It derives from Provence and the ingredients you will need are lettuce, curled endive, rocket, and chervil.
To recreate the original taste, you’ll need to mix two parts chervil, one-part rocket, one-part curly endive, and lettuce for the main part.
This salad’s ingredients are only leaves, so it will be light and mild, making a perfect side dish to any meal. I often have this salad as my main!
· Northern Mesclun
This is the version of Mesclun created in the North of France.
Since this mix should always include seasonal and fresh products, the northern version of the salad uses endive, cress, spinach, and corn salad as its main ingredients. This is all mixed in with some fresh lettuce!
This is probably the best-known version of this salad, originating in the Mediterranean Nice region. Nicoise comes with dandelion, cress, rocket, chicory, and endive.
It’s a great salad to have as your main during hot, sunny days, as it can be very refreshing and zesty!
Some Popular Mesclun Salads
It’s easy to make a delicious Mesclun salad, but what if I told you there’s tons of room for alterations, toppings, and seasonings? Let’s have a look at some of my favorites here!
· Asian Mesclun
Who said that mesclun should only include Mediterranean greens?
With the increasing popularity of Fusion cuisine, I could not resist adding some ethnic leaves to this salad. I hope the French readers here won’t mind!
This custom mix benefits from the spiciness of Eastern flavors and the mildness of baby greens.
I often add Chinese cabbage, Japanese spinach, mustard leaves (green, red, Mizuna, and Ruby Streak), and tatsoi. Bok choy is also one of my favorite leaves for this salad!
· Superfood Mesclun
At the end of a hard day at work, the only thing you want is a dinner to help you recharge!
Look no further than the Superfood Mesclun mix. For this salad you will need kale, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts.
Add to the mix seeds, nuts, onions, and tomatoes, and you’ve got a filling salad whether for lunch or for dinner!
· Winter Mesclun
Using as a base the fresh greens you prefer, add pomegranate seeds and goat cheese to bring it to the next level.
This variation will give you a classy side dish or starter for dinner parties. I tried it myself just last year at Christmas, and it was a rousing success!
Seasoning and Dressing
Among the most commonly-used Mesclun seasoning options are salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.
Quantities can change depending on your personal preferences. If you are looking to spice up your day, chili flakes or Cajun will do the trick.
I prefer to add many herbs to my salad like dried parsley, basil, and marjoram.
I like to keep my salad mix Mediterranean!
If I need an extra boost, then chia, pumpkin, and sesame seeds add a little extra flavor and energy to my meal.
If you’re living a fast-paced lifestyle, you can prepare a dressing mix beforehand and store it for up to three days. This will in turn make it easy to transform an otherwise simple salad into a filling and tasty meal. My preferred choice is a lemon and olive oil mix, but vinaigrette is just as common.
Alternatively, you can add a touch of Balsamic vinegar to the Mesclun. An easy addition, but also a potential game-changer!
The Mesclun nutrition details can vary depending on how you have modified your salad.
If you opted for one of the basic or original recipes, you’re looking at a filling meal that’s only 10 calories per 200 grams and extremely low in fats while boasting 2 grams of carbs, 1 of fiber, and 1 of protein.
Among the other health benefits, you’ll also see improvements in your digestive system and metabolism.
Moreover, this salad is high in vitamin A (beta carotene), vitamin C and folate. These are all essential compounds that you should be having regularly.
Not only is it easy to make and filling, this salad is also perfect for anybody that is trying to lose weight. It’s tasty and makes for the ideal snack. Having greens helped me stay away from refined carbs and cheeses during my diet!
Tasting Notes and Tips
The taste of your mesclun salad can vary enormously, as it mainly depends on the leaves, dressing, and vegetables you are going to add to it. The most common leaves and their tasting notes are:
- Red oak leaf: this leaf is slightly bitter but refreshing.
- Spinach: the dense consistency and high nutritional benefits of spinach makes it the perfect addition to your winter Mesclun
- Green oak leaf: if you prefer a salad that is sweeter and milder and can hold any dressing, add green oak leaves.
- Mizuna: I am not a fan of mustard leaves myself, but this one can add an extra touch to your salad.
- Rocket: also called arugula, these leaves add a peppery taste to your salad. Excellent with goat cheese or lemon juice.
- Red chard: if you’re looking for a filling salad, this salty leaf is perfect for you.
- Tatsoi: This Asian variety is juicy and slightly spicy.
- Tango: Perfect to add to green oak leaves, it will make your salad taste sweeter.
- Mâche: if you opted for the original version of the salad, the delicate flavor of Mâche makes it easy to mix with other mild leaves.
- Frisée: potentially one of my favorites, the bittersweet flavor of this leaf makes it great to combine with lemon juice and seeds.
- Red romaine: one of the most commonly-used leaves, the earthy flavor of this plant is classic but never disappointing.
- Green romaine: this is a milder version of the above.
These are the best leaves to mix into your Mesclun salad for a filling and tasty meal. However, if you prefer, you can add vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, and cucumber to make your Mesclun the main dish.
If you’re feeling classy, goat cheese can be a great addition, along with seeds and walnuts.
If you’re feeling experimental, add fruits such as mandarin, apple, and pomegranate. I have never tried this, but I hear it’s delicious!
Mesclun is the perfect addition to any meal. It can be customized easily and takes only a few minutes to prepare. If you can, avoid buying the product in plastic bags and opt for mixing the salad yourself. It will be tastier and fresher!
Have you tried any of these mixes? What did you think of them? Have you tried to make an alternative one and went well? Let us know your variations by leaving a comment below!