Mesclun, also known as “spring mix,” refers to the mixture of young, tender salad greens that are under three inches in length. It originated in the region of Provençal, France. In fact, the French word “mesclar,” which means “to mix” or “mixture” is where it got its name from. Perhaps, the blend was quite recent to the culinary world. Based on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it was first used in 1976. Yet, according to local historians, it originated with the farmers of the Nice city, as each of them would bring their own distinct mix of baby greens to the farmers market. Still, mesclun first appeared, in farm stands and restaurants, in the United States around the early 1980s. Since then, it has been popular in the market.
Traditionally, the mix includes arugula, leafy lettuce, endive, and chervil. Yet, various greens may also be added. These may include the following: frisée, oak leaves, romaine, Lolla Rossa, tatsoi, bok choy, orach, mizuna, baby spinach, Swiss Chard, collard greens, garden cress, dandelion greens, kale, radicchio, mache, and mustard greens.
Nevertheless, it offers varied colors, tastes, and textures. It can range from sweet to peppery and buttery to nutty.
Binomial Name: Varied
Mesclun Mix Trivia
- Mesclun or spring mix only takes 4 to 6 weeks to grow and they can be grown all-year-round.
- The mix should be harvested when the baby greens are under 3 inches, approximately 3 to 4 weeks old. Older ones can be used as hot vegetables.
- Green lettuce was originally referred to as Cos, after the island of Kos in Greece where they’re discovered.
Mesclun Mix Buying Guide
Buying mesclun or spring mixes 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:
- The 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.
- Double-check the use-by-date and choose the ones that’ll take a long time to expire.
- If possible, buy organic mesclun. 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, mesclun or spring mixes from farmers’ markets are better than the ones in stores. Not only that their products are usually organic, but you’ll also get the chance to learn more about each variety and choose your own blends. Plus, you may also get free samples along the way.
Mesclun Mix Production & Farming in Texas
Mesclun or spring mix is best at its freshest state. Picking, packing, transporting, purchasing, and transporting them again to your kitchens degrade store-bought greens. That’s why it’s best to grow them on your own. Not to mention that they’re easy and only take a few weeks to grow. Plus, it performs well in smaller containers; hence, you won’t be needing a lot of space. And, here comes the best part, they can be bought as a seed mix! So, you don’t have to worry about getting all the different varieties and growing each one. All these crops thrive in cold climates and tend to bolt when the summer heat comes. But, you can certainly grow them in Texas.
Here, the perfect time to plant them is between fall and spring. If you don’t have a greenhouse, a patio, a sunny windowsill, or even indoors with a bright fluorescent light works just as well. Texan home growers usually use plastic tubs – it’s lightweight, handy, and the lid works perfectly on jumpstarting the germination. You might need to poke a few small holes in the bottom tub for drainage though. Still, a spongy potting soil that’s free of peat moss should fill about half of that tub. Moisten the soil with water prior to seeding as it’ll wash away the seeds otherwise. Loosely put the lid on top followed by something that could cover direct sunlight, such as a sheet of paper or a placemat. After three days, germination would start. The next day, you’ll get sprouts. At this point, remove the lid and water the soil just enough to keep it moist and not soggy. A sprayer or misting bottle works perfectly on this. Anyhow, after about a week, they will produce a mature leaf. At this point, feed them with some fertilizer, while keeping the soil moist. Three weeks later, your greens are ready for harvest. Though make sure that the leaves are below three inches in length. Use a sharp scissor to cut the outside leaves off, roughly an inch above the soil line. The greens will continue to reproduce and you may enjoy your mesclun or spring mix any time.
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, which are included in mesclun or spring mixes, 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. Thus, it’s always better to consider growing them on your own.
Mesclun or spring mix is composed of cold climate crops that are widely produced around the world. Yet, 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, Arizona, and Florida are the three largest producers in the country. In California, the Salinas Valley contains the largest production areas that include San Benito and Monterey counties. In Florida, on the other hand, the Everglades Agricultural Area down south is the greatest production area.
Mesclun or spring mix usually comes in loose plastic bags or containers. These are packaged and priced by the bundle. Some stores, especially in the farmers’ markets, also sell each variety 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 mixes in bushels, cartons, and even crates.
Enjoying Mesclun Mix
Mesclun or spring mix is traditionally eaten as a salad. It goes well on any or combination of the following: chopped bacon, cheese, olives, sweet peppers, and more. Since it offers a wide range of flavors and textures, it is best to keep its dressing simple from lemon juice to vinaigrettes.
Meanwhile, they can also be enjoyed fresh on burgers and sandwiches. Rather than putting your usual lettuce, consider replacing them with a handful of mesclun to add nutrition, vibrancy, and color to your dish.
Another popular way to eat mesclun is to use it as a salad bed for grilled meats, fruits, and vegetables. Grilled salmon on a bed of mesclun or spring mix will certainly be a crowd-pleaser.
The shelflife of mesclun or spring mix depends on a variety of factors, such as the preparation method, storage method, and of course, the best by date. But generally speaking, they should be loosely wrapped unwashed in a sealable bag lined with a bunch of paper towels. They should be stored in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator, with a temperature that ranges between 40 and 45ºF. Properly stored, they will retain its freshness for 2 to 3 days. If you dress your greens, they will only last for 1 to 3 days. Wash your greens and dry them on a salad spinner prior to use.
As mentioned above, mesclun or spring mixes are traditionally eaten raw. However, we sometimes forget them in the vegetable drawer until such time that they wilted, turned slimy, and discolored. But, we can always avoid tossing them into the trash bin. How? By cooking them! Mesclun contains delicate, tender greens that aren’t hardy enough to be cooked. That’s why it’s very uncommon to cook them. But, instead of throwing out the slightly wilted ones or the older, bigger, and more matured leaves, you may simply sauté them lightly in butter or olive oil – less than a minute is all you need, really. 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.
Mesclun or spring mixes 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, they are mostly noted for their vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They’re high in vitamins C and A, with small amounts of vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron. However, if you have baby spinach on your mix, you’ll get additional iron and a hint of protein. Regardless, mesclun or spring mix is a highly nutritious food and it’ll always be a healthy option.
When Are Mesclun / Spring Mix in Season in Texas?
To find out when Mesclun / Spring Mix are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? 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. 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. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.