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Glossary of Spring Greens

Glossary of Spring Greens

Here is a sampling of the favorite greens of springtime.

Arugula
Also called rocket, arugula has dark green, deeply notched leaves that resemble small, elongated oak leaves. Arugula is nutty, tangy and slightly peppery in flavor. Larger leaves are more pungent.

Lettuces
Among the varieties at their peak in springtime are butter, red-leaf, oakleaf and romaine lettuces. Mesclun is a varied mixture of young, tender greens. A Provençal word for "mix," mesclun is traditionally a salad consisting of the first greens and herbs of spring, hence its other name, spring mix.

Mâche
Mâche is also called field salad, corn salad or lamb?s lettuce, for it appears in early spring with the lambs. It is very delicate and mild, with oval leaves that grow in small, loose bunches.

Sorrel
With delicate, triangular leaves, sorrel has a strongly tart flavor similar to that of rhubarb. The paler the leaves, the more delicate the flavor. Sorrel discolors with cooking, but it lends a bright, pleasantly sour flavor when pureed into soups and sauces.

Spinach
Spinach has dark green leaves and an earthy, faintly bitter taste. To use raw in salads, it is best to select baby spinach leaves. These small, immature leaves, often sold already washed and prepackaged, have the mildest flavor and best texture.

Watercress
Characterized by a refreshingly peppery flavor, watercress grows wild along streams and is cultivated in water. It has small, round, dark green leaves on short, delicate stems.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Companion (Time-Life Books, 2000).