Growing Tips and Recipes for Spring Mix, Mesclun, and Baby Greens

Grow your own spring greens and use them in dishes as varied as Herbed Chicken Sandwiches, Moroccan Bean and Couscous Salad on Greens, and Breast of Duck Salad.

April 29, 2010

Spring greens made a great addition to this chicken salad.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Of course you can buy salad greens like spring mix and mesclun at the grocery store, but if you’re looking to dip your toe—or in this case fingers—into gardening, these spring greens are easy and fun to grow at home. Whether planted in a window box, a patio planter, or by your back door, lettuces are super-gratifying vegetables to grow; they’re ready to harvest just four to six weeks after starting from seeds.


You can buy pre-mixed seed packages of mesclun mix or grow different greens separately to tailor the mix to your own tastes. Planting greens with different characteristics (spicy, mild, brightly colored) will add interest to your salads. For a spicy option, try fast-growing arugula, with its beloved peppery bite. Milder greens include mâche, also known as lamb’s lettuce, along with kale and the Asian greens bok choy and tatsoi. Or add color contrast with red radicchio, or hotter-tasting mustard greens such as mizuna. Or chard, with its brightly hued stems. You get the idea. Your options are many.

Some tips for growing your own greens (check for all sorts of great gardening advice):

• Feed your soil with organic matter, such as compost or liquid fish fertilizer.

• Weed frequently to allow your greens (rather than the weeds) to benefit from the nutrients.

• Water regularly, since greens thrive if soil is kept consistently moist.

• Practice “succession planting,” so you’ll always have greens available. To do this, sow a new row of seeds every two or three weeks.

• Experiment with harvest times; you may prefer the flavor of certain greens when they’re slightly larger.

• Don't have a garden plot of your own? Turn some turf into a garden bed the easy way, or use small-space gardening techniques.

If you pick your baby lettuce and don’t get to it right away, keep the greens dry and cool but in a humid environment. It’s best to harvest them in the morning, just after the dew has dried. For the perfect container, poke a few holes in a plastic bag and place a paper towel inside it. The plastic creates a humid environment, the holes allow oxygen in, and the towel absorbs excess condensation while still keeping the humidity high. Fill the bag loosely with lettuce and leave the seal slightly open, then store greens in the crisper, which is the coolest part of your fridge. Wait to wash and dry these delicate greens just before serving.

For recipe ideas that make the most of your homegrown (or storebought) green mix, check out these tasty dishes from the Rodale Recipe Finder.

#1: Herbed Chicken Sandwiches. Top the sliced chicken breasts in these sandwiches with a delicious lemon-herb mayo. For a vegetarian-friendly sandwich featuring spring greens, try pitas stuffed with cherry tomato and gorgonzola salad.

#2: Cool Greens and Tomatoes with Creamy Dill Dressing. This may be the perfect spring side salad. Try pairing it with salmon.

#3: Moroccan Bean and Couscous Salad on Greens. Add muscle-building protein to vegetarian spring salads with the addition of beans or tofu.

#4: Thai Shrimp. The tangy lightness of seafood is nicely complemented by baby greens. For another great seafood option, pair your spring mix with tuna.

#5: Breast of Duck Salad. For succulent dinnertime entrées featuring fresh spring greens, pair your greens with duck, chicken, or beef tenderloin.