people become more nutrition conscious, salads become an essential part
of a healthy meal, or even as the meal itself. Part of the reason for
the popularity of salads is the freshness of the principal ingredients.
For years, iceberg lettuce dominated the choice of salad greens, but
today other lettuces are also popular. Greens from other botanical families
are becoming frequent additions to fresh salads, as well. If iceberg
is the only type of lettuce you eat, you are choosing the least nutritious
member of a family of nutritional champions. Any other lettuce or leafy
green vegetable would be a better choice. Most other greens are also
good sources of vitamin C, beta-carotene, folate, and dietary fibre
as well as some calcium.
a general rule, the darker green the leaves, the more nutritious the
salad green. For example, romaine or watercress have seven to eight
times as much beta-carotene, and two to four times the calcium, and
twice the amount of potassium as iceberg lettuce. By varying the greens
in your salads, you can enhance the nutritional content as well as vary
the tastes and textures.
Salad greens must be fresh and crisp. It is easy to spot wilted greens;
watch out for limp, withered leaves that have brown or yellow edges,
or dark or slimy spots. Once greens have passed their prime, there is
no way to restore them to crisp freshness. Lettuce and other greens
should be displayed under refrigeration, as they are very perishable
Try to choose lettuce with healthy outer
leaves; these are likely to be the most nutritious part of the green,
containing much more beta-carotene and vitamin C than the pale inner
leaves. Unfortunately, the outer leaves are usually the most damaged
part of the head, but from a nutritional standpoint, it's best to salvage
as many as you can.
and other head lettuces should be symmetrically shaped. Choose a head
with its dark green outer leaves intact and healthy looking. The stem
end of a head of iceberg lettuce may look brown; this discolouration
is the natural result of harvesting and does not indicate damage. If
the head is not wrapped, sniff the stem end: It should smell slightly
sweet, not bitter.
lettuce should be compact and firm, yet springy: Very hard heads may
be overmature and bitter. Avoid overly large heads of romaine, which
may have tough, fibrous leaves.
Most lettuces and other greens keep best in a plastic bag in the refrigerator
salad drawer. Soft leaved lettuces do not keep as well as firm greens,
such as romaine or iceberg lettuce: Iceberg should keep for up to two
weeks, romaine for about 10 days, and butterhead and leaf lettuces for
about four days. Buy only enough for immediate use, or keep them for
more than a day or two.
store greens near fruits, such as apples or bananas, which give off
ethylene gas as they ripen. Otherwise, the greens will develop brown
spots and decay rapidly. For appetisingly crisp greens, and to minimise
last minute preparation at mealtime, wash and dry them, then layer the
leaves in clean paper towels and place in a plastic bag. Refrigerate
in the salad drawer until serving time, but not more than a few hours,
for optimal nutrient retention.
you purchase a cellophane wrapped head of iceberg lettuce, leave it
in the wrapper until you are ready to use it. Untie bunches of greens,
such as watercress, and check them for insects. Greens sold with their
roots intact keep best if you wrap the roots in damp paper towels, then
place the whole bunch in a plastic bag. Greens with their roots attached
can also be placed upright in a glass of water (like a bouquet of flowers),
covered with a plastic bag, and refrigerated.
Greens must be washed, and in some cases trimmed before you put them
in the salad bowl.
Since grit tends to collect at the stem
end of looser-headed greens, it's important to twist off the stem and
separate the leaves before washing them. (If you're not using the entire
lettuce at one meal, just remove as many leaves as you need from the
wash small leaved greens on stems, cut off the roots, hold the greens
by the stems, and swish them around in a large bowl of cool water. Lift
out the leaves, letting the sand and grit settle, then empty and refill
the bowl and repeat the process.
A salad spinner greatly simplifies the
preparation of greens by drying them quickly and thoroughly. Dry leaves
are a must if the dressing is to adhere properly.
best to core iceberg first: Cut the head in half lengthwise and then
remove the core with a stainless steel knife; or, rap the head, core-end
down, then twist and lift the core out. If you're using the whole head,
rinse it by running cold water into the cored end, then invert the lettuce
to drain it well.
can either tear greens into bite-sized pieces by hand or cut them with
a knife; each method has its proponents. As long as you use a stainless
steel blade (carbon steel can cause blackening and alter the flavour)
and serve the salad soon after it's prepared, it's safe to cut most
greens. However, delicate leaves, such as butterhead lettuce , are more
appealing when torn (or left whole). Iceberg lettuce can be cut into
thick slices ("rafts"), wedges, chunks, or shreds, or simply
addition to their use in salad, many salad greens can be briefly cooked
and served as main-dish or side-dish vegetables. The firmer and more
strongly flavoured greens, such as escarole or chicory, benefit the
most from cooking by mellowing the taste. Even butterhead lettuce can