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Nutritious Salads—From Wild Greens To Iceberg Lettuce

Near the beginning of her book “Eating on the Wild Side,” author and organic gardener Jo Robinson offers this recipe for “Going Wild at the Salad Bar:”

“Choose from the following ingredients and you will create a wonderfully nutritious salad,” she says, “Top your salad with a dressing made with extra virgin olive oil (preferably unfiltered) and either vinegar or lemon juice.”

Salad Ingredients: artichoke hearts, arugula, bell peppers—any color, cabbage—preferably red, cherry tomatoes, looseleaf lettuce—preferably red or dark green, nuts and seeds—not croutons, onions—red, yellow, or green, radicchio—any variety, spinach and sprouts.

Choosing Your Greens

When choosing your salad greens, Robinson says, “Choose red, red-brown, purple, or dark green looseleaf varieties. The most nutritious cultivars are deeply colored and have a loose arrangement of greens. Pale-colored varieties that form a tight head are the least nutritious. Whole heads of lettuce are fresher than bagged greens.”

She also urges us to “Spend ten minutes preparing your lettuce to preserve its flavor and nutrients. Separate a head of lettuce into its individual leaves or open a bag of loose greens and soak them in very cold water for ten minutes. Dry in a salad spinner or with a towel to remove the surface water. If you tear your lettuce into bite-sized pieces, you will increase its antioxidant content. But if you do, be sure to eat it within one to two days. Place the greens into a resealable plastic bag that you have pricked with between 10 and 20 tiny holes. Squeeze out the air, seal, and store in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.”

Robinson also urges us to “enrich” our salads with extra-nutritious, non-lettuce varieties such as arugula, radicchio, endive, and spinach, which are “higher in phytonutrients than most lettuce varieties.” She says grocery shoppers should, “Choose bags of mixed greens with the most colorful (especially red and dark green), freshest leaves. Reject bags of greens that have yellow, brown, or withered leaves. Check the ‘use-by’ date for added confirmation of freshness.”

Dressing Up Your Salad

When it comes to dressing up the salad, she casts her vote for unfiltered extra virgin olive oil. “Fat-free dressings limit your absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins in salad greens,” she adds. “Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent oil to use because it makes the nutrients in the greens more bioavailable. Unfiltered extra virgin olive oil is even better because it has more antioxidants and will stay fresh longer.”

To help “tame the bold flavors of bitter greens,” and since “many of the most healthful salad vegetables are high in beneficial, but bitter-tasting phytonutrients,” Robinson recommends, “If you are extra-sensitive to bitterness, mix small amounts of bitter greens with milder lettuce. Add avocados or dried or fresh fruit. A honey-mustard salad dressing further masks the bitterness.”

While our current offerings of salad greens are limited, we do expect to expand them significantly in the very near future. We do list the red lettuce varieties of New Red Fire, Red Sails and Red Salad Bowl, and you might also like to try our Gourmet Looseleaf Blend, especially tailored for those who might be sensitive to bitterness. For additional salad nutritional value, there are Red Giant Mustard and Red Russian and Dwarf Blue-Curled Kales.


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