Salad Greens

Salad Greens, also known as leafy greens, vegetable greens, or simply greens, are leaves of plants that are traditionally eaten raw. Most of them come from herbaceous plants, such as spinach and lettuce. And, they also include cruciferous vegetables like kale. 

Like chile peppers and other crops, the explorer Christopher Columbus was also the one who introduced salad greens to the United States. During these ancient times, they were still called “herbs” and they were served with just a sprinkle of salt. As a matter of fact, the word “salad” comes from the Latin word “herba salta,” which means “salted herbs.”

Nevertheless, salad greens have come a long way. Nowadays, they’re not just served as plain greens. But, they also include meat, seafood, pasta, fruits, and cheese, enhanced by dressings from sweet to tangy.

Classification Information:
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Lactuca
Species: L. Sativa
Binomial Name: Lactuca Sativa

Salad Greens Trivia

  • Lettuce started out as a weed around the Mediterranean basin.
  • Arugula, along with other herbs, were used in making powerful love potions back in the ancient times. It claims to boost sexual performance when eaten regularly.
  • Salad greens offered by Mcdonald’s are in fact, more fattening than their burgers.

Salad Greens Buying Guide

Buying salad greens are relatively easy. They’re found anywhere and it’s also easy to tell the fresh ones from those that aren’t. Still, here are some basic guidelines on how to choose the best ones:

  • Salad greens should be vibrant and crisp. Avoid the ones that are starting to wilt or have wilted, and discard the ones that have yellow or brown spots.
  • Salad greens’ head varieties should also be firm and tightly furled. Avoid the ones that are loose or are limping.
  • Generally speaking, the darker the salad green, the more nutrient-dense it is. Thus, those that are intensely colored, such as spinach and kale, have high amounts of vitamins and minerals like A, C, calcium, and iron. Contrastingly, pale-colored greens like endive and iceberg lettuce have lower nutrition. Still, they’re all nutritious, hydrating, low in calorie, and high in fiber.
  • If possible, buy organic salad greens. Organic ones might not be as perfectly shaped as the conventional or GMO ones, but they’re sweeter and more nutritious. Not to mention that they’re kinder to the planet too.
  • As always, salad greens from farmers’ markets are better than the ones in stores. Here, the products are usually organic and you’ll be able to meet and help your community.

Kinds of Salad Greens:

  • Lettuce – This is the most popular, well-known, and widely-used kind of salad greens. They are generally mild in flavor while some provide an additional hint of sweetness. They’re low calorie and nutrient-dense as well. In fact, most of them are good sources of potassium and vitamin A. And, even though there are several varieties of lettuces, they can be classified into two categories: loose-leaf and head lettuce. Loose-leaf grows in looser bunches while the head lettuce grows into a tight ball. 
  • Chicory – This kind is closely related to lettuce. Yet, it tends to be more bitter than them. The robust and bold flavors of these greens works perfectly on food or dishes with assertive flavors, such as pickles, nuts, and pungent cheeses.
  • Brassica – This kind contains a wide range of varieties that include kale, cabbage, and cauliflower. They are especially rich in nutrients and phytonutrients.
  • Spinach – This kind of salad green is extremely rich in nutrients. It provides a mild and slightly herbal taste that it becomes unnoticeable when eaten on salads, wraps, or smoothies.

The Other Kinds:

These kinds are not as common as the ones mentioned above. But, they stand up on their own with flying colors and they’re definitely must-tries:

  • Mache – This Europe-native green leaves are also called corn salad as they are traditionally planted after the corn harvest. They’re tiny, slightly velvety leaves provide a sweet and nutty taste. They’re also especially rich in nutrients. As a matter of fact, they even contain more iron than spinach.
  • Mesclun – Mesclun is not actually a type of salad green but it’s a mixture of several salad greens that range from feathery to crunchy textures and from neutral to bitter.
  • Purslane – This is a fast-growing succulent that is largely considered a weed in North America. Its distinct lemony and juicy flavor makes up a stand-alone salad. It also provides high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that no other salad green can.

Salad Greens Production & Farming in Texas

In the state of Texas, fall and winter seasons are the best times to grow salad greens because they thrive in temperatures between 40 and 70ºF. They can also withstand frost down to 28ºF without any shelf or protection. In fact, the cold temperatures will prolong the life of salad greens. Hot temperatures, otherwise, will make them bolt, bitter, and inedible.

The seeds are usually planted in a sunny location between late September and October. They perform well in rich and loamy soil that is abundant in organic matter. Lettuce and roquette seeds should have 8 to 12 inches space in between rows while Swiss Chards should have 18 inches. Avoid planting Swiss Chards next to spinach. Lettuce and roquette seedlings should appear in a few days, while Swiss Chard and spinach can take 7 to 10 days. Nevertheless, they all need lots of water to produce tender, succulent leaves.

Meanwhile, a lot of people prefer to grow loose-leaf varieties than the head ones because it’s easier to harvest the outer leaves when needed instead of having to harvest the entire plant. The new leaves always starts to grow from the center, so removing the outer ones does not retard or disturb its growth. As a matter of fact, this harvesting style will guarantee that you’ll have a continuous salad greens with no downtime.

They are not susceptible to pests after the first frost so you can enjoy fresh, abundant, and continuous salad greens from November to early May. Homegrown salad greens contain more vitamins and minerals than the store-bought ones so consider growing them yourself.

Pesticides:

Conventional or organically grown, fruits and vegetables are essential components of a healthy diet. However, many of these contain potentially harmful pesticides, even after thorough washing, peeling, or scrubbing. Thus, what we can only do is to be aware of which items are the most or least contaminated.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an American group that focuses on the advocacy of agricultural subsidies, pollutants, and toxic chemicals. They have created the Dirty Dozen List, which is being updated each year to rank fruits and vegetables that contain the highest pesticide contamination based on the samples tested by the USDA and FDA. 

Generally speaking, leafy or salad greens are susceptible to pests. That’s why they are often grown with high amounts of pesticides. And, it’s not something that can just be washed away with water. Even after a thorough cleaning, residues remain on the crop. 

Lettuce is most likely to retain pesticide contamination. During the testing period for the 2012 Dirty Dozen List, they found 78 different pesticides on them.

Based on the 2020 Dirty Dozen List, spinach ranks second and kale ranks third. On average, both kale and spinach had 1.1 to 1.8 times more pesticide residue by weight than any other sample crops. In the 2012 Dirty Dozen List, 88% of spinach samples contain one or two pesticides. And while kale might’ve gained its popularity as a superfood, the level and types of pesticide residues on it have significantly expanded. The predominant pesticide detected was DCPA, a possible human carcinogen that is sold under the brand name Dacthal. The European Union banned this pesticide in 2009. 

Geography:

Salad greens are cold climate crops. They are widely produced around the world, but China remains to be the leading producer, accounting for 55% of the world’s total production by weight. In the United States, salad greens are prolifically being produced all-year-round. California and Arizona remain to be the two largest producers in the country. California accounts for 71%, while Arizona accounts for 29% of the U.S. total production. Meanwhile, California is the also current leading grower of kales, but they’re followed by Georgia and New Jersey, narrowly beating Texas. 

Packaging:

Salad greens usually come in loose plastic bags or containers. These are packaged and priced by the bundle. Some stores, especially in the farmers’ markets, also sell them by weight, either by the kilogram or pound. But, if you’re planning to buy on wholesale, go to your nearest local producer, and you can get these greens in bushels, cartons, and even crates.

Eating Salad Greens

The traditional way of consuming salad greens is to eat them raw. Otherwise, it’ll be called a vegetable salad, boiled greens, of cooked greens. Salad greens are something that you can enjoy any time of the day – it’s refreshing, nutritious, and flavorful. Thus, here are some of the traditional serving and methods of eating salad greens:

  • Appetizer Salads – These salad greens are commonly tossed in light and tangy dressing to stimulate the appetite. 
  • Side Dish Salads – These salad greens compliment the main dish. They are commonly heartier compared to appetizer salads, as these are tossed in dressings that ranges from vinaigrette to creamy. 
  • Main Dish Salads – These salad greens must be heavy enough to serve as the main dish. They are commonly larger in size and filled with more ingredients like meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, cheese, pasta, and beans.

Meanwhile, they’re also popular to be used as a wrap on other ingredients – think of salad greens instead of a tortilla! In addition, you can also blend or juice them along with other fruits and vegetables to create a nutritiously detoxing beverage. 

Storage:

The shelflife of salad greens depends on a variety of factors, such as the preparation method, storage method, and of course, the best by date. Generally speaking, most lettuces should be wrapped unwashed in an unsealable bag lined with a bunch of paper towels. On the other hand, loose leaves like arugula, watercress, and baby spinach should be kept unwashed in a tightly-sealed bag. Still, they should be stored in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator, with a temperature that ranges between 40 and 45ºF. Properly stored, salad greens will retain its freshness for 3 to 5 days. If you dressed your greens, they will only last for 1 to 3 days.

Cooking:

As mentioned above, salad greens are traditionally eaten raw. However, we sometimes forget them in the vegetable drawer until such time that they wilted, turned slimy, and yellowed. But, we can always avoid tossing them into the trash bin. How? By cooking them! Though it’s uncommon to cook salad greens, they may be stir-fried, stewed, steamed, or sautéed. As a matter of fact, we can simply sauté them lightly in butter or olive oil. Toss some garlic and you have a wonderful side dish that goes well on salmon and other meats. The slime or stale taste will be gone by doing this. You can also save them for your morning omelets or sandwiches. And the best part is, it’ll only take you less than five minutes to do this. Not only that it’ll save you waste, but it’ll also save you time and money.

Another popular way to cook salad greens is to stew them with pork. This, in fact, is a traditional dish in soul food and in the Southern U.S. They can also be chopped finely and mixed with other ingredients to create something like a saag, which is a South Asian specialty.

Nutrition:

Salad greens are generally low in calories. Not to mention that their calories are mainly composed of water and fiber – not sugar. They’re also low in fat and have a considerable amount of protein per calorie. But, salad greens are mostly noted for their vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They’re high in vitamins C, A, and K, folate, manganese, iron, and calcium.

When Are Salad Greens in Season in Texas?

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  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • Oktober
  • November
  • December

One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas.

Buy Local Farmfresh Salad Greens in Texas Directly from the Producer

mapMarkerGreyBandera

A Garden in Every Home

mapMarkerGreyFredericksburg

Agarita Creek Farms

mapMarkerGreyRockwall

Barking Cat Farm

mapMarkerGreyRogers

Bouldin Food Forest

mapMarkerGreyThe Colony

Brothers Products Dallas

mapMarkerGreyCelina

Cartermere Farm

mapMarkerGreyManor

Central Texas Specialty Growers

mapMarkerGreyWeatherford

Cold Springs Farm CSA

mapMarkerGreyMineola

East Texas Homestead Farms

mapMarkerGreyLockhart

Emadi Acres Farm

mapMarkerGreyHouston

Eureka Acres Urban Farm

mapMarkerGreyTarzan

Flying Y Farms

mapMarkerGreyBastrop

Fruitful Hill Farm

mapMarkerGreyAthens

Gopher Knoll Farm

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Gracia Farms

mapMarkerGreyPanhandle

Green Wolf Vertical Farm

mapMarkerGreyHouston

Hope Farms HTX

mapMarkerGreySmithville

Indian Hills Farm

mapMarkerGreyMontgomery

Jenkins Sunshine Farm

mapMarkerGreyDripping Springs

Josephine’s Gardens / Cosmic Community Cultivators CSA