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Summer salads are quick, easy, and don’t heat up the kitchen.
They may contain dozens of ingredients, or just three—imagine an appetizer that’s nothing but dark red wedges of vine-ripened tomatoes served with a dusting of sea salt and cracked peppercorn!
If your family still thinks of a salad as a pile of leaves to keep them busy while the meat is cooking, surprise them with the majestic Niçoise salad. This French classic is laden with luscious tomatoes, mixed greens, eggs, anchovies and/or tuna, olives and even boiled potatoes!
You can make your summer salads spicy, sweet, peppery, savory, or sour — all without adding an ounce of dressing—by adding the following greens with (or in place of) lettuce. And if you’re a gardener or fortunate enough to have a Tower Garden, you can easily grow them yourself!
- Arugula: Famous for a delightfully nutty, peppery punch, arugula is a popular staple in grocery store mixed greens.
- Asian greens: Common in stir-fry dishes, Asian greens such as bok choy, tatsoi, and mizuna are slightly spicy. For summer salads, younger leaves are typically best, as they’re milder in flavor.
- Dandelion: Once you taste the earthy, slightly bitter leaves of dandelion, you’ll wonder who decided the plant was a weed.
- Herbs: Technically not greens, fresh herbs make fantastic summer salad toppers, from the floral notes of lavender to the refreshing nip of mint.
- Frisée: Also known as chicory and curly endive, frisée is a piquant, highly textured green.
- Kale: This fast-growing, faintly bitter green is rich in fiber and loaded with vitamins.
- Mâche: Sometimes called “the mayonnaise of greens,” mâche (or lamb’s lettuce) adds a sweet, note to your summer salads.
- Mustard: Fans of the spicy condiment of the same name (made from the plant’s seeds) will not be disappointed by the taste of the leaves. They will introduce a similar pungency to your salads.
- Nasturtium: This bold and beautiful green’s name comes from “nasus” and “tortus,” Latin words that roughly translate to “twisted nose.”
- Sorrel: High levels of oxalic acid give sorrel a unique tangy flavor, comparable to a sour green apple.
- Spinach: Tricky to grow, spinach is nevertheless the most popular salad green next to lettuce, due to its simple, pleasant taste and dense concentration of nutrients.
- Swiss chard: Try using young leaves of this very mild green to balance out the bolder flavors of sorrel or mustard.
- Watercress: While this is a bitter green, it’s one the most healthful superfoods you can grow, so even small portions will significantly increase the nutritional value of your salads.
Where to go from here? Find recipes for 10 Simple Salads You Can Make with Your Summer Harvests