Greens are great. Spicy, sweet, bitter – I love them all. I grow radishes and beets as much for their greens as for their fruity bits. A good mesclun mix can be a real treat, but it’s getting harder to know what’s in the mix.
Most seed companies seem to provide the mesclun mixes pre-mixed in a packet. That’s good. But what can be bad about that is that it makes you dependent upon their definition of mesclun. These days you can grab a mesclun mix (or “spring” mix as it’s often called since nobody knows what mesclun means and it sounds vaguely narcotic) just about anywhere and in all kinds of pre-packaged conditions in the supermarket. By most classic definitions of mesclun, what we get pre-mixed and packaged (in seed or bag form), is not often all that mesclunish.
Mesclun is a French and Italian thing. The goal is to mix key flavors of baby greens together. Bitter (perhaps from an endive or radicchio), mild (from some leafy type like oak leaf, red sails or ruby), piquant (spicy and pungent like mustard greens) and peppery (like arugula). That’s right.. piquant AND peppery.
These days, in most bags of salad, you’ll find it’s high on the leafy and therefore low on the likey. Are the seeds following suit? This year I got two mesclun seed mixes from two different places. Seeds From Italy, not surprisingly, seems to hit closer to the good ol’ european definition and I’m seeing some spice in my sprouts. My other selection (can’t remember where I got it!) looks decidedly Dole – lots of red sails and not much oomph.
Caveat emptor. Next year it’s time to be more discerning. I want greens that clear my sinuses not ones that disappear completely on the tongue.