Growing Mesclun – A Torrent Of Taste

 

What On God’s Green Earth Is Mesclun?

Hippies Use The Back Door

Some folks think that it’s some kind of illegal hallucinogenic drug that hippies consumed back in the 1970’s.

Oh wait – that was mescaline – so, that’s a lot different!

Mescaline is a derivative of the Peyote Cactus – usually coming from the little buttons growing on the cactus – and, it is used in religious ceremonies by some indigenous North American Indians.  But, it got and hijacked by the hippie movement for their own enjoyment.

No – this is “mesclun.”  The name is derived from the word, “mesclar” – coming from the French Provincal dialect in southeastern France.  The verb, mesclar, means to “mix thoroughly” – so, it is a “mixture” of sorts – mixing up a bunch of salad greens for a myriad of taste sensations.

The word, mesclun, didn’t even get into the North American Webster’s Dictionary until 1976.

And, that is exactly what mesclun is…

 

What Kind Of Mesclun Would You Like To Try?

Mesclun is a mixture of various types of lettuces and other green leafy type vegetables to create a symphony of various flavors – making the common everyday salad an exquisite masterpiece of culinary delight!

A given mix of mesclun may contain any combination of the following:

Arugula - rocket salad

  • Arugula – Also known as garden rocket or rocket salad. It has a distinctly fresh peppery flavor.
  • Baby Spinach – Offering a milder and slightly sweeter taste than normal everyday spinach.
  • Bok Choy – Known, too, as Japanese spinach, bok choy has a bit of a bitter taste – but milder than mustard greens.
  • Bull’s Blood Beet – These leaves are the deepest reddish purple I’ve ever seen. And, as the plant matures, the colors only get more pronounced.  The leaves are tender, crunchy, and a little sweeter than radicchio.
  • Chervil – Even though it tastes like basil, chervil looks like parsley and is often called French parsley.
  • Dandelion Greens – These greens offer up a pleasantly bitter taste very much like endive or radicchio.
  • Endive – Commonly called chicory or frisée, it has frizzy leaves which are crunchy and a little bitter when eaten raw. Cooking endive mellows it out and may even sweeten it up a tad.Mâche or Lamb's lettuce
  • Mâche – A French salad green also called corn salad or Lamb’s lettuce. It has a creamy, sweet, nutty flavor.
  • Mizuna – These “Japanese mustard greens” are tangy and peppery – but not quite as much as arugula. The flavor has a mild mustard taste.
  • Mustard Greens – Mustard greens have a peppery tang and – well – surprise – surprise – they taste like mustard!Radicchio - Italian chicory
  • Radicchio – Frequently referred to as Italian chicory, radicchio looks a lot like red cabbage – but, its leaves are thinner and tenderer – and it has a daringly bitter flavor.
  • Sorrel – If you’ve ever eaten a typically sour Granny apple, you will know what to expect when you bite into sorrel leaves.
  • Swiss Chard – Its leaves have a slightly bitter taste – similar to regular spinach or beet leaves. The stalks are a bit sweeter – similar to bok choy stems.
  • Tatsoi – This dark green Asian lettuce – with spoon shaped leaves – has a taste in the same ballpark with mustard greens and collards.
  • Tendergreen Mustard – This is a cross between mustard greens and spinach – very mild flavored.
  • Upland Cress – As thin and tender as baby watercress, these “creasy greens” have a pungent, peppery flavor.
  • Other selections of red loose leaf lettuce.
  • Other selections of green loose leaf lettuce or spinach.

 

Some Great Mesclun Varieties

I prefer the Burpee assortments because they have a much higher germination rate.  Mesclun mixes look absolutely beautiful in the garden.  You could plant them as ornamentals in your front yard – in concert with your flowers and bushes!

Mesclun leaves and stems grow fairly quickly and are normally ready for pickin’ after a month or so of growin’ in the garden.

Jim’s Favorites:

Spicy Mix MesclunSweet Salad Mix Mesclun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spicy Mix – Combines equal quantities of seeds for arugula, endive, radicchio, mustard, and red loose leaf lettuce.  Even though this mesclun mix is very tangy and spicy, I still add a few drops of Tabasco to it.  It sets my mouth on fire and I love it!

Sweet Salad Mix – Tender, mildly flavored, colorful greens with a wide range of seeds for red colors – Ruby lettuce, Bull’s Blood beet) – and bright green colors – Simpson lettuce, Tendergreen mustard, and Bloomsdale spinach.

Marty’s Favorites:

Classic Mix Organic MesclunProvencal Mix Mesclun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classic Mix (Organic) – This really is a classic mix with some sweet lettuce and some tangy greens.  You’ll have arugula, chervil, endive, mâche, and 4 different lettuces – Oak Leaf, Prizeleaf, Green Ice, and Red Salad Bowl.  To top it off, there is also radicchio and upland cress – a real hodge podge of beauty and flavor!

Provencal Mix – This mix gets its name from the Provence region in southeastern France.  It combines seeds for chervil, arugula, endive, and tender leaf lettuce.  This mix is customarily served in the finest restaurants in southern France.

 

Making A Mesclun Mix To Be Proud Of

We’re going to grow meclun the same way we would grow any lettuce.  Full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours a day – partial afternoon shade is acceptable and, actually, preferred – to keep the greens from overheating if they are growing during the hot, humid midsummer months.

Start seeding the garden as soon as possible after the last frost in the spring.  Since these greens grow so fast, you can start a new section of them every couple of weeks and have a multitude of produce all the way up until the first frost in the fall.

The germination, transplanting, and hardening off processes that are recommended for veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, etc., aren’t necessary for mesclun.

  • Make sure that you till the ground to loosen up the soil.
  • Make a furrow about three quarters of an inch deep.
  • Add a half inch layer of Jim’s 50/50 soil mixture to the channel.
  • Sprinkle a thin line of mesclun seeds down the length.
  • Cover with a quarter inch of Jim’s soil mixture.
  • Water well – and after the seedlings begin popping up, make sure they get about an inch of water per week.  I suggest getting a good rain gauge to help you make sure your plants get enough water.
  • Add some soaker hoses to make watering as easy as a walk in the park.
  • When the seedlings get a couple inches high, start thinning them out by grabbing some leaves for an occasional salad. Everything will grow better and fuller if the plants still in the ground are at least 3 or 4 inches apart.
  • Add some mulch around the plants to hold in moisture, keep the soil cool, and discourage weed growth.

And, there you have it.  Sit back and watch your salad take on its colorful shape.

 

Harvesting

Most of the plants in a mesclun mix will re-sprout after you clip their leaves – giving you some new foliage to harvest in about 3 weeks.

If the plants start to “go to seed” and get flowers, even the sweetest flavored ones will begin to turn bitter.  That’s the time to pull the entire plant, and salvage as much of the greens as possible for your table.

 

Controlling Pests And Diseasesaphid

Aphids are the main pesky enemy of leafy plants.  Knock them out with some Ortho Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer.

Fungal diseases like downy mildew and powdery mildew attack the plants most often when they don’t have a chance to dry from an overhead watering – be it rain or hose sprinkler.  Nip them in the bud with some Daconil or Physan 20.

 

Marty’s Friend Starts A New Business

Betsy is open for business.

Marty’s friend, Betsy, opened a new store recently.   To congratulate her, Marty asked me to stop by and have Frank, the florist, send a suitable arrangement of flowers to Betsy with a nice card attached.

A nice flower arrangement for Marty's friend, Betsy.

Well, Betsy got the flowers – with a card signed, “From Marty.”  The kicker is that the card also said, “Rest in Peace.”

Understandably annoyed, Betsy called Marty and scolded her over the “tacky” inscription on the card.  Needless to say, when Marty called me to complain about it, I got the worst end of the stick.  (You know what always rolls downhill – and picks up speed!)

Anyway, I headed over to Frank’s Florist Shoppe and told him that it was his fault that I was in the doghouse!  Frank checked the order and immediately turned white as a sheet.  He realized that he had mixed Marty’s order up with another one for a funeral that was taking place.

So, the card on the flowers that went to the funeral had a note saying, “Congratulations on your new location!”

I guess I wasn’t the only one having a bad day!

 

Comment below or email me with your thoughts, questions, ideas, and anything else you want to talk about!

 

Jim, the Lifelong Gardener

jim@perfect-vegetable-garden.com

 

 

15 thoughts on “Growing Mesclun – A Torrent Of Taste

  1. Kenny Reply

    Hi and thanks for this review. I have visited your site before and this post does not disappoint. You cover some really good points on these herbs and there are also some excellent visuals that hold your site viewers attention. Well done and thanks for this information. I will book mark your site from now on. Kenny 

    • Jim Reply

      Glad to have you back again, Kenny!

      I’m glad you liked my post on mesclun.  Growing fresh produce that you can bring to the table is an important step to not only creating a healthy lifestyle for you and your family – but also guaranteeing that you can provide the essentials in any emergency situation!

      Jim

  2. Kent Reply

    Where I live they call mesclun “spring mix” and I buy them all the time. I definitely love to get a bunch of mesclun and make salad out of it or use it to make a green smoothie, sometimes I even put them in my sandwiches when I don’t have any lettuce, I think they taste better. If I were to grow them outside it wouldn’t work for me because where I live it’s cloudy all the time. Would it be possible to grow these greens in a greenhouse?

  3. Dianne Reply

    Hi Jim the lifelong gardener.

    I love your website, I have never been a great gardener, everything I had tried to grow has always been complete failure, saying that i am even useless with keeping anything alive in the house too!

    BUT, I am determined to get better at it, so this coming spring I am going to go for it and get sowing some seeds in my garden. I have now decided i will have a go at growing Mesclun too.

    Thanks for the informative post I will be following as my guide.

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Dianne,

      You will find a lot of useful information within the pages of The Perfect Vegetable Garden that will give you the “how-to’s” for just about anything you want to grow.

      Maybe we can turn your thumbs green after all.

      🙂

      Jim

  4. John Greg Reply

    Hi, 

    This is really an interesting topic. 

    I want to try it myself. Can you suggest where I can buy the seeds and soil for me to do this next summer? I am also wondering if this plants can grow inside my house if I use grow lights? Finally, can you share what are some of the health benefits for eating this mix of salad?

    Thanks, 

    John Greg

    • Jim Reply

      Hi John,

      Look in this mesclun article where I talk about Jim’s Favorites and Marty’s favorites and you will see links to buying our favorite mesclun seeds for planting.

      All of my “how to grow” pages list recommended sources for seeds, roots, bulbs, and plants to grow a successful harvest.

      Visit Jim’s 50/50 Soil Mixture – This Is As Good As It Gets for tips on creating a healthy soil bed for your outdoor garden plants.

      Visit Jim’s Garden Adventure 2018 Chapter 8 “Growin’ Veggies Indoors” for the best potting soil to use for your indoor garden.

      As far as health benefits, they are the same as any other leafy greens or vegetables you find discussed in The Perfect Vegetable Garden.  For health benefits of leafy greens, take a look at Lettuce.  For health benefits of other veggies, browse the vegetables listed under Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs.

      I’m sure your common sense tells you that fresh vegetables – especially, leafy greens like mesclun – have nothing but a plethora of all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.  And, if you’ve ever eaten fast food and still find yourself hungry afterwards – it’s something to seriously make you consider that fresh, nutritious veggies is a major step up in giving yourself a healthier lifestyle.

      Jim

  5. Linda Reply

    Very interesting read. I have been trying to get more knowledge about growing my own vegetables and ingredients for salads. But I don’t want to only eat iceberg. I have no green thumb (at all) so I have no clue what I should plant in fall and what I should plant in the spring, but I do really want my own patch. 

    This totally seems doable, even with my limited skills. Thanks for the information, I shall try this when the winter is done.

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Linda,

      So far, I’ve outlined successful strategies for successfully growing over 30 different vegetables, fruits, and herbs within The Perfect Vegetable Garden.  If you follow these tactics, I am double-dawg sure your thumb will turn green in no time!

      😉

      Jim

  6. Taetske Reply

    Good afternoon Jim,

    Now this is what I call a palatable post.

    I love all these mesclas and do them at home. When there are beet root growing in the vegetable garden I take some leaves and slice thinly and mix it with the rest. I like to make a dressing with: virgin extra olive oil, kefir, honey, mustard, salt, pepper, apple cider vineger, and garlic.

    I live on a organic farm so we try to make the snails drunk with some beer. If there are too many we go snail hunting and the chickens have a feast. The same happens with plants which start to go to seed, the chickens love them.

    Sorry to hear about that flower mix up, I hope you now can smile about it.

    Regards, Taetske

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Taetske,

      I’m glad you are a kindred spirit about mescals (blends of leafy greens).  I really like having a variety of leafy greens in my salad and mesclun mixes provide just that!

      Thanks, for the great dressing recipe.  I’ll have to try adding some kefir – for a little sour and creamy addition to my dressings!  To me, it tastes like Greek yogurt.

      I hope you save some of that beer for yourself – and don’t let the snails drink everything.  Do the chickens get drunk from eating all those beer infested snails?

      Marty finally got over the flower mix up.  But, Frank, the florist, is still in the doghouse!

      Jim

  7. Nicki V Reply

    That was really informative! I learned a lot of about salad that I didn’t know.  I never really gave much thought to it other than buying the mix that I like lol

    I personally like a good spring mix which has a little bit of the healthy leafs like kale and spinach.  I think I might try the spicy mix as it would probably go great with my southwest style of salad that I love.

    Thanks for the interesting information.  It’ll give my salad buying/eating experience much more variety now 🙂

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Nicki,

      If you like southwestern style cooking, the spicy mix mesclun is definitely for you.  A little Tabasco spices it up even further.

      You may also enjoy some of the other “how to grow” pages listed in The Perfect Vegetable Garden!

      Jim

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