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Designer Lettuce or Weeds - Actually Field Greens

What is with this trend? I can't stand what I call "designer lettuce" and many friends call weeds. It has gotten so I quiz the waiter as to what he/she actually means when he/she says salad.

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  1. Some folks don't like salads with flavor other than the dressing, just some mild Iceberg and romaine lettuce. Others like the contrasts and textures, bitterness vs. sweetness of the greens. Just order a lettuce salad when you go out to eat if you don't like field greens / mesclun.

    I have eaten these fresh greens and varieties of lettuce in salads or cooked my whole life. I remember as a kid on vacation in Europe that when we went out to eat people laughing at Americans who ate boring, flavorless Iceberg and Romaine lettuce as salad. I also visited my great grandmother and great aunts in Wales and helped them pick salad greens for dinner. They lived in a farmhouse that had been in the family for over four hundred years and this was always what they did. Later as a teen here in the NY suburbs I had girlfriends who were Italian and their mothers and grandmothers would be out picking greens such as dandelion leaves, sorrel, lambs quarters, etc. Later I developed foraging as a hobby and for awhile as a necessity because of working in the wilderness. I was so glad when salad greens became commercially available.

    Actually, this is getting back to what salads originally were. In the spring folks would be a bit malnourished from lack of fresh food over the winter. They would pick young field greens and eat as salad, steeped as a tonic, or cooked as greens, so they could get all the fresh vitamins and minerals. I think it is great that after the dismal 1940's through 70's when the amount of food stuffs available in the US actually decreased, we are now having a dramatic increase in the variety and amount of food available.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JMF

      I am married to Mr. Iceberg or Divorce and I would much rather have the color, flavor and texture variety of what he calls "lawn clippings". What are you going to do? At least that means more of the purslane (which I actually pull from my garden as weeds) for me.

    2. I guess it's a matter of personal taste. I love the field greens, best suited to a lighter and fresher dressing, or maybe just a drizzle of oil and a splash of fresh citrus juice. They have a complex and earthy flavor that just isn't present in iceberg or romaine. That being said, both of those lettuces have their uses, as I can't imagine a BLT without hearty leaves of romaine, or a juicy burger from the grill without a few crunchy iceberg leaves, and tacos aren't tacos without shredded iceberg (at least on a very fundamental level!) This 'trend' also leans towards a healthier eating pattern that many people sre seeking, as the darker greens contain a higher level of vitamin power than their paler cousins. To each their own, I say.

      2 Replies
      1. re: cooknKate

        For soft tacos, try shredded cabbage instead of iceberg. Not so watery.


        1. re: cooknKate

          cooknKate "or a juicy burger from the grill without a few crunchy iceberg leaves"

          WORD! A little off topic, but why is it that chef's insist on using anything BUT iceberg on hot sandwhiches and burgers. The leafy stuff just wilts and hence is totally gross! Leafy lettuce/spring mixes has it's place but NOT on my burger! </end rant>

          On topic - there are some spring mixes I like, but I don't like it when the greens are bitter. I think it's arugala I don't care for.

        2. I love vibrant salads but the "field greens" mix sold by many stores and restaurants is souless and tasteless. You'll produce a much more interesting salad by buying heads and mixing them yourself.

          1. The field green mix you buy in the store that is "spouless and tasteless" as noted above is probably that way because it is who-knows-how-old by the time you get it at the store. My sister grew the field mix in a container near her porch and the mix stayed great for a week in my fridge. I feel all the bagged greens at the store have virtually no relation to the recently picked. It is worth trying to find them fresh. That said, a time or two, I have felt like I was grazing in a field rather than eating a salad.

            1. The dandelion "weeds" in my yard are great! I've asked my neighbors to give them to me.

              I do miss the crunch of iceberg...so lots of times I mix spring mix with some iceberg and romaine.

              Only iceberg on sandwiches..or maybe romaine.

              When I went to Portland to visit my son and daughter-in-law...I made a big salad and Jenn asked "what is that weedy taste?" She said the same thing when I finished a dish with flat leaf parsley. We laughed.

              1. I have a friend who's a chronic unhealthy eater--she has IBS and is recovering from the big C. So I picked a restaurant that I thought was "no-fail" called Greenz. What did she order? The iceberg wedge smothered with bacon and blue cheese dressing ... you can lead a horse to water ...

                I say, bring on the weeds!

                1. What do you mean when you say salad? What would you hope the waitperson would respond?

                  What sort of dressings do you prefer on salads?

                  Are you objecting to baby lettuces, herbs, arugula, raddichio, strange lettuce varieties? Or all of these?

                  Whereabouts are you from? For the last 15-20 years some or all of the above have been common in the salads at most good restaurants in most major urban centers in California and elsewhere in the coastal West.

                  Personally I like buying lettuces from individual growers at Farmers' Markets, so I can have a red oak leaf lettuce only salad - or so I can put in exactly as much frisee or endive as I am in the mood for. Sometimes just romaine is fine as well. I also don't especially like dill and cilantro in green salads. But I have lived most of the past 20 years in lettuce country, and the thought of iceburg lettuce as a major component of most salads bores me silly.

                  Please don't misinterpret my tone. I am not hostile, I am just trying to understand where you are coming from and what your issues are.


                  1. If you are asking me I didn't think you were hostile, just missing my point. I do not like the "designer lettuce" also known as field greens they are serving these days. Good for you that "iceberg bores you silly". When ordering a salad in a restaurant I do ask what kind of lettuce they are serving. Romaine is fine with me with some arugula, etc. I do not like field greens. Nice to know you live in "lettuce country". I grew up on a farm and lettuce was not one of our crops as it was so cheap. I just came from a golf tournament with 60+ women. They had a salad bar where they served field greens and mixed (iceberg, romaine and arugula) and the field greens are still sitting there. Didn't mean you had to agree with me. Linda

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Linda VH

                      I like field greens, but I think the time has come for restaurants to rethink the salad. At home, I like to mix something like romaine or red leaf with field greens about 50/50 because I like an element of random bitterness. Sometimes I add a smattering of chiffonaded basil - not a lot because it's a rather strong flavor. Likewise sometimes a smattering of cilantro. Not cilantro and basil at the same time because the flavors - in my opinion - would become muddled and confused.

                      Last night I had a wonderful salad at a restaurant - field greens/red leaf mix with little bits of roasted broccoli and - I think - shaved roasted yam or some type of vaguely sweetish root vegetable dressed with a light, not particularly olive oily tasting dressing - more acid than oil. Very nice.