spring mix; mixed baby greens
Though the word mesclun used to mean something more specific, today it is used to refer to just about any mix of tender young greens that range in color, texture, and flavor from sweet and tender to bitter and crisp to peppery and pungent.
Supermarket mesclun, which tends to be rather ordinary in both taste and complexity, is most often a mix of ten to twelve varieties, including red oak leaf lettuce, red and green romaine, radicchio, curly endive, frisée, lollo rosso (frilly leaf lettuce with red edges), baby spinach, sometimes baby chard leaves or mustard greens, as well as a bit of tat soi (the small thumb-shaped flavorful Asian green) and sometimes arugula.
Fortunately, many greenmarkets and gourmet stores now sell wonderful and distinctive mesclun grown by individual producers in smaller quantities. Some of these mixes contain as many as thirty different plants, including flowers and herbs (which are very delicate and spoil too rapidly for supermarkets) and things like young dandelion greens, purslane, mizuna, and curly cress, to name a few. While these mixes can be pricey, they need nothing more than the simplest dressing of extra-virgin olive oil and a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to make a tremendous salad.
1 oz. = about 1 loosely packed cup
The best mixes are composed of only baby leaves. If you see a lot of cut-up bits (full-size radicchio is often chopped and added), you'll know that the mix was made from larger, tougher plants. Ideally buy your mix loose so you can better see the leaves and smell them to make sure the mix is not past its prime. If the salad mix comes sealed, look closely to see if there are any squished blackened leaves; if so, choose another package.
Be sure to wash greens well as nothing ruins a salad like gritty greens or bits of decayed leaves. Swish the leaves in a large bowl of cool water, let them sit so the grit settles to the bottom, and then lift out the leaves. Repeat until no grit remains and then spin them dry.
Store mesclun in the refrigerator. For best storage, try this method: Soak greens in very cold water for 15 to 30 minutes to replenish water lost since harvesting and then spin them dry. Wrap them loosely in paper towels and put them in a zip-top bag. Partially seal the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible without squishing the greens and then finish sealing. Stored this way in your refrigerator's produce bin, the greens can last for as long as 10 days.
If storing them in their original box refrigerate the greens before the expiration date. Discard any leaves that look wilted, slimy, or discolored. After using some of the greens, fluff the leaves left in the box.