One of the delights of spring and summer is fresh green salads. A tossed green salad is very easy to make using whatever fresh greens, herbs, and vegetables you have on hand.
There are lots of different greens that can be used to form the basis of a green salad, and if you are a CSA subscriber, you may often find yourself experimenting with new-to-you greens. In addition to the many varieties of lettuce that are available, other common salad greens include
- beet greens
- baby kale
- cabbage (napa and savoy cabbage are tender even when raw)
Use any one green or a combination, depending on what you have on hand. A bit of grated carrot in your salad will sweeten up bitter or spicy greens such as kale or arugula. I sometimes add bok choy to salad. The leaf makes a decent salad green and the chopped up stem adds some crunchy interest.
Wild greens I commonly use include
- dandelion greens
- violet leaves
These are good in early spring before the plant sends up its flower stalk. After that, the leaves become tough and, in the case of dandelion, bitter. There are many other wild greens but these are the two I have experience with. As with any wild food, be 100% sure of identification before harvesting and eating. And wash them well!
You can add texture and flavor by adding other vegetables, chopped, sliced, or grated, as you prefer. Good salad vegetables include
- broccoli florets
- cauliflower florets
- zucchini (I especially like this grated)
- sweet peppers
- red cabbage
- red onion
You can add some heft to your salad with grated cheese, sliced hardboiled eggs, or nuts and seeds. Such additions can turn a salad into a main course. On the other hand, I find these things can distract from the delicate flavors and textures of fresh vegetables and herbs. As always, experiment to find the combinations you like best.
Fresh herbs add depth to your salad. Just snip them up with scissors. Quantity may depend on how much you have available, though as guideline, about 1/4 cup of any one herb would be a decent amount for a regular size salad bowl. Much more might make the flavor too intense. But, again, you should experiment with quantities and combinations to find what suits your taste.
My favorite salad herbs include
- salad burnet
- scallion greens
- chives (including the flowers)
- nasturtium flowers and leaves (for a peppery taste)
- wild mustard flowers and buds
- spruce tips (the new growth in the spring)
If your salad vegetables are truly fresh, meaning they were recently harvested from your garden or a local farm rather than from a vegetable producer hundreds or thousands of miles away, they will need very little dressing up. There really is no need to smother the natural flavors of fresh vegetables and herbs in lots of oily dressing. If you are a salad dressing fan, I would suggest adding only a small amount, a few teaspoons per serving perhaps, just enough to enhance the taste of the vegetables but not overpower them. I usually find , however, that a splash of vinegar or lemon juice is enough to brighten things up. You could also add a bit of olive oil if you like it.