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Spring Greens

Fresh, Tender Lettuces and Greens of Spring

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Fresh, tender spring greens are the first signs that the lighter dishes of spring are on their way (and that hearty winter eating is coming to an end). Learn about spring greens below and start looking for them as the days get longer. Then use them in one of these delicious spring salads.

Avoid the horror of gritty salads and be sure to clean your spring greens thoroughly.

Arugula

Photo © Molly Watson

Arugula is a dark green, peppery green that is used both raw and cooked. Wild arugula tend to have more of a kick than the cultivated kind. If the level of peppery kick is important to you, be sure to taste a bit before you buy, if possible, since its flavor ranges from quite mild to really rather spicy. Learn more about arugula here.

I really like Arugula With Broiled Lemon Salad and these Arugula Salad Rolls. Find more delicious arugula recipes here.

Butter Lettuce or Boston Lettuce

Photo © Molly Watson
Butter or Boston lettuce is a delicate, head lettuce with very loose, cup-like leaves. I like to toss the leaves with a simple Lemon Vinaigrette or use them in this Butter Lettuce and Asparagus Salad or as the vehicles in this Chicken Lettuce Cups.

Chard

Swiss Chard
Photo © Molly Watson

Chard comes in Swiss (white ribs), red, golden, and mixed rainbow versions. Each has its own flavor, but an earthy edge defines them all. Chard is usually cooked, but certainly can be chopped up and added to salads raw. In any case, many dishes benefit from cutting the ribs out from the leaves and cooking them separately—see how here Learn more about chard here.

I'm a big fan of this Swiss Chard Gnocci Casserole and this Chard, Beans, and Barley Soup. Get more chard recipes here.

Dandelion Greens

Photo © Molly Watson
Dandelion are dark green and famously bitter. Long, slow cooking mellows their bitterness, if that's what you want, but some of us love that cleansing taste of fresh and sharp dandelion greens. Learn more about dandelion greens here.

Escarole

Photo © Molly Watson
Escarole isn't only grown in the spring, but spring escarole is sweeter and more tender than at other times of year. I love escarole simply cooked, as in this Sautéed Escarole. It is also a fabulous pairing with small spring beets in this Escarole Beet Salad.

Pea Shoots or Pea Greens

Photo © Molly Watson
Pea greens are the vines on which peas would eventually grow. They tend to be available—in giant tangled masses—at farmers markets in spring and early summer when farmers thin their fields. Learn more about pea greens here.

Spinach

Photo © Molly Watson
Spinach is so widely available all year-round, it's easy to forget that the small, tender leaves of spring spinach are a real treat. There is a sweetness to their dark green leaves that is perfect in spinach salads. I love to use them to make this Wilted Spinach Salad and this Spinach Pistachio Pasta. Find more spinach recipes here.

Watercress

Photo © Molly Watson
Watercress has a bright, peppery flavor prized for salads. It grows wild in streams in Northern America and Europe, but is easily cultivated with the right irrigation. Much cultivated "watercress" is actually garden cress, which has less bite and crunch than true watercress. Whatever cress we're talking about, they're all members of the mustard family. The older they get—either in the ground or after being harvested—the sharper their flavor becomes. Use cress as soon as possible after its been picked, discarding any yellowed or wilted leaves when you clean it. Note that the tender stalks and roots are perfectly edible along with the dark green leaves.

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