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Summer Salad

What is the difference between arugula and escarole? Should you use ranch dressing or a vinaigrette? For salad lovers and amateur chefs alike, the answers are waiting online.

Most lettuce consumed in the United States is picked in California and shipped to distributors nationwide. The greens are picked by hand, washed and packaged, then transported aboard trains like the Salad Bowl Express.

The Green Guide

Don't know your endive from your radicchio? Here's a breakdown of the most commonly used greens:

  • Iceberg
    It has been called the "polyester of salad greens," but where would salad be without the classic, iceberg lettuce? It has crunchy leaves, a mild taste and it is the largest selling and most familiar salad ingredient in the U.S.
  • Arugula
    From the mustard family comes arugula. Smooth, dark green leaves with stems characterize this spicy green, best when mixed with bitter and sweet greens.
  • Boston Lettuce
    Boston, or butter lettuce, has a pale green color, crunchy texture and a sweet, delicate flavor. Both Boston lettuce and its relative Bibb lettuce should be served with mild dressings; also great as a tasty decoration.

  • Endive
    Among the bitter greens, endive is one of the most popular choices. The pale inner leaves should be used in salads, while the dark green outer leaves are best cooked. Endive adds interest to mixed green salads, is good with other bitter greens and is best with a spicy vinaigrette.
  • Escarole
    Another member of the chicory family, escarole, has a bitter flavor with a slightly sweet edge. The pale, inner leaves of the heart should be used.
  • Leaf Lettuce
    Leaf lettuce has a delicate texture and flavor, and frilly, green and red-tipped leaves. This relatively new green is best with light dressings and vinaigrettes.
  • Radicchio
    Leaves ranging from bright red to maroon characterize radicchio, another chicory leaf. The head can be anywhere from a softball to a golf ball in size, and has a strong bitter flavor. A new salad suggestion: iceberg lettuce, spinach and shredded radicchio.
  • Romaine
    Romaine is best known as the primary component of Caesar salads. This crisp, medium-dark green lettuce is a good addition to any mixed green salad.
  • Spinach
    A great source for iron and vitamins A and C, spinach is an old favorite for salad makers. The darker green the leaves are, the more nutrients they contain. Spinach is a soft leaf with a strong flavor, and can be served in salads or cooked.

Fresh Ideas

Want to spice up your salad? Try adding toasted sunflower seeds or other nuts, grated lemon or orange peel, or chopped capers. Thomasland offers unusual salad ideas, including couscous salad with apricots, pine nuts and ginger, and Chinese coleslaw.

The Global Gourmet offers classic salad recipes, such as Caesar, Cobb and Waldorf, and new twists on old favorites like potato salad and coleslaw. For a fun summer treat, try their Corn on the Cobb salad. For more summer ideas, try Better Homes & Garden's Recipe Center; featured recipes for this season include a Spinach Pasta salad and zesty Western Grilled Vegetable salad.

And finally, for the true salad fanatic, Gourmet Mushrooms offers salads for your wall. The company sells sixteen posters of salad greens, herbs, edible flowers, mushrooms, berries and more.

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