This guide to common salad greens can help you choose varieties that will add visual appeal and extra flavor to your salads.
15 Common Varieties of Salad Greens
Leafy greens come in a wide variety of leaf shapes, colors and textures. Here's a list of tips and facts to help you choose your favorites.
- Beet Greens: These greens are high in oxalate content, so use them sparingly. Beet greens come from young beet plants, early in their growing season.
- Chinese Cabbage: Otherwise known as Napa or celery cabbage, this cabbage is crisp and has a hint of anise flavor. Shred it for salads, and look for solid heads in the market.
- Green or White Cabbage: Shred it for coleslaw or salad. Green has more healthful properties than white.
- Red Cabbage: Higher than green cabbage in nutrients, especially magnesium.
- Savoy Cabbage: This bright green cabbage with mustard flavor is best cooked.
- Celery: Celery leaves and stalks should be crisp and fresh looking – ditch the yellow or wilted celery.
- Chicory: Otherwise known as curly endive, the leaves of chicory are dark green on the edge and yellow in the middle. Chicory, although slightly bitter, mixes well with other greens. If the outer leaves are tough, cook them.
- Dandelion Leaves: In the springtime, you can find two kinds of dandelion leaves in the market. The cultivated variety is mild, with long, pale green leaves. The field-grown variety has a bitter flavor and has shorter, darker leaves. They work well in salad but can be cooked for a side vegetable, too.
- Belgian or French Endive: Tangy and flavorful, the endive is a great salad green. Look for a firm pale yellow head with waxy, pointy leaves.
- Escarole: The dark green, flat outer leaves are bitter (good for cooking), but the inner leaves are great for salad.
- Fennel: Fennel, aka anise or finocchio, is a white bulb with feathery green leaves. Sporting a mild licorice flavor, fennel should be used sparingly in salads to avoid overpowering other greens.
- Field Salad: If you're lucky enough to locate field lettuce, or lamb's tongue, you'll find very small spears on delicate stems. Field salad frequently is included in mesclun, or “spring greens.”
- Lettuce: Bibb lettuce is small and delicate; leaves are fragile and shade from green to yellow. Boston lettuce is the most common varieties of head lettuce. The head should give slightly if you squeeze it. Outer leaves should be separated, fresh and green. Iceberg lettuce is pale green and watery. Iceberg has the fewest nutrients and very little flavor. Romaine lettuce is crisp and juicy. Heads of romaine are narrow with dark green, oval leaves. Great for caesar salad or as cooked greens.
- Parsley: Although parsley is generally used as a garnish, it is highly nutritious and can be used in salads, too. Parsley is rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron and chlorophyll. Grab a bunch that is crisp and dark green.
- Watercress: One of the more pungent greens, watercress adds a tangy flavor with small, round and dark leaves. Use watercress as soon as possible after purchase.