As a farmer and chef, I truly adore salads especially at the height of spring, summer, and even fall. But, salads can get boring quickly if all you are using is Romaine. No hit to romaine, it can be incredible and provide much needed summer crunchiness. A wonderful way to zest up your salads is to incorporate different greens into the mix. And I mean more than those mesculin mixes. I’m talking greens that you’ve never heard of like sorrel, salad burnett, watercress, and much more. Here are 10 unique greens that you can add to make one of the best salads you’ve ever made, not to mention the most beautiful.

1. Salad Burnett
a. Beautiful – pinnately-compound leaf structure
b. Tasty – cucumber like
c. Easy to grow and Perennial
d. Advice: Add to top almost like a topping, don’t mix in
2. Cress
a. Nutritious
b. Zesty Spicy Flavor changes it up
c. Plant is around in cool times of the years as well as part shade to shade
3. Sculpit
a. Mildly Aromatic like arugula or chicory, but more herbal
b. Perennial and easy to grow
c. Advice: Don’t harvest older leaves as they have a strong bite
4. Vegetable Mallow
a. Appearance Change Up: curly green leaves
b. Hot weather lover when lettuce is bitter
c. Digestive aid
d. One of the first domesticated crops in Asia over 2,500 years ago
5. Amaranth Leaf
a. Beautifully red veined especially Mariah Leaf
b. Heat tolerant when lettuce can be bitter
6. Freakin’ Arugula
a. Nutty Flavor
b. Nutritious
c. Cool weather
7. Nasturtium Leaves
a. Unique and beautiful leaf shape especially with water droplets laying on top
b. Unique spicy flavor
c. Advice: slice most up small strips and place full on as a topping
8. Specialty mustard
a. Purple frilly appearance
b. Flavor
c. Texture change up
9. Fresh Herbs like Basil, Parlsey, Cilantro
a. Adds amazing amount of flavor
b. Advice: choose one herb and stick with that profile
10. Frisee type Endives
a. Texture change up- frizy and buoyant
b. Small bite size leaves
c. Bitter notes which works well with small leaf size
d. Hardy plant
e. Advice: Don’t overdo it with the endive due to bitterness

And in general, as far as salad ratio, have lettuce the main green, say 60% at least, then add 40-30% of any of these specialty greens. I would recommend that you also choose a few and focus on those for one salad. Many of these greens have bold flavors that you might not mix well with other unique flavors.

Another way to zest up your salad, and get your salad game pro, is to add unique edible flowers which you can read about here.

Salad dressing is by far the most important aspect to preparing exceptional salads. And, making it yourself and understanding how dressings work as far as ingredients and ratio, will step your cooking game up. It is just one of those basic cooking skills that shows an understanding of flavors, oils, emulsions, salts, and basic concepts that help you cook better. Here is an article explaining the basics of dressing a salad and a solid salad dressing recipe that works every time.

Many of these greens are hard to find in stores or mixes, so the best thing you can do is grow them yourself. These greens are incredibly easy to grow from seed. Because I live in Oregon and appreciate open-pollinated seeds that have been adapted to the area and climate, I purchase seeds from Adaptive Seeds and Siskiyou Seeds. However, there are many new seed companies offering uncommon specialty greens online.

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