Overview & History
The salad greens commonly known as "spring mix" originated in France and are known in French as Mesclun. Mixed greens simply refers to a combination of the first tender young greens that appear in the garden in the spring. Popularized in French farmer's markets, where local growers would boast their unique springtime blends, mixed salad greens arrived to the US food scene in the 1980s. There are a wide variety of salad greens available in Vermont, spanning across several plant families, each bearing a unique history. Varieties of greens that are grown in Vermont include arugula, spinach, endive, pea and sunflower shoots, dandelion greens, mustard greens, watercress, and various leafy lettuces.
Arugula is a spicy, mustard-like plant that is currently grown as a “specialty green” in Vermont. It is a member of one of the dominant families in our food system: Brassicaceae; broccoli, kale and rutabagas are also in this family. It is native to Europe and western Asia and was introduced to the United States by the colonists.
Lettuce is a member of the family Asteraceae, along with artichokes, marigolds and sunflowers. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean and boasts over 100 varieties. Thousands of years ago, it was most likely grown for the oil its seeds produced. Christopher Columbus introduced varieties of lettuce to North America during his second voyage in 1493.
Spinach is a member of the family Amaranthaceae, along with beets, chard and quinoa. It is native to Persia and was not introduced to the Greeks and Romans until the Moors brought it to Spain in the 11th century.
- Arugula is nicknamed “salad rocket”, which is derived from the Latin word eruca, meaning caterpillar—this is most likely referring to the hairy stems some varieties possess.
- The word lettuce is derived from the Latin word lactuca, which stems from lactus, meaing “milk”; this name was designated because of the white resin the stems secrete when they’re cut.
- In China, lettuce represents good luck.
- During the Middle Ages, spinach leaves were sold in the form of round balls, called espinoche.
- Spinach contains more iron by weight than a hamburger.
- Arugula: An excellent source of vitamin A, B9 (folic acid) and C and the minerals magnesium, manganese and calcium. It is a very good source of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and the minerals copper, iron and potassium.
- Lettuce: Most varieties are rich in B9 (folic acid) and the mineral potassium. Romaine lettuce is typically viewed as the most nutrient rich. It is an excellent source of vitamin A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B9 (folic acid) and C, as well as the minerals chromium and manganese.
- Spinach: An excellent source of vitamin A, B9 (folic acid) and C. It is a very good source of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and the minerals iron, magnesium and manganese.