Mesclun is the name given to an assortment of at least five types of salad leaves and shoots. Arugula, lettuce, chicory, lamb's lettuce, spinach, frisée, and oak leaf lettuce are the most typical combination. A few chervil tips are sometimes added to the mixture.
Mesclun is sold as loose leaves by weight at fruit and vegetable dealers and markets, or packaged (under a modified atmosphere) in ready-to-use bags and available in the fresh food section of supermarkets. Depending on the brand, different assortments are offered. Make sure the lettuce leaves are firm and crisp, and that their edges are clean and there is no sign of yellowing. Shoots should not be stuck together. The same conditions apply when buying mesclun by weight.
Wash the salad greens (leaves) in running water or let soak for a few minutes in cold water with a dash of distilled white vinegar to remove any impurities. Drain carefully before dressing. Keep mesclun away from any heat source, because it will cause the leaves and shoots to wilt and lose their flavor. Likewise, once a mesclun salad has been dressed, eat it quickly, because the acidity in the dressing will cause the leaves to wilt.
Fresh and crisp, mesclun is a good base for making mixed salads. Only the dressing used will make the difference. You can choose from vinaigrette made from olive oil and balsamic vinegar, one made with canola (rapeseed) oil and lemon juice, a whole-grain mustard dressing, and even a dressing made with honey.
Mesclun packaged in ready-to-use bags have a use-by or expiration date. It can be used after this date if its appearance is good. The bag should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator at 1 to 4°C. If the leaves are loose, store them unwashed and wrapped in a cloth under the same conditions, but generally for no longer than 24 hours.
The nutritional value of mesclun varies, depending on the mixture of greens. But mesclun will generally provide minerals, antioxidant carotenes, vitamins, and dietary fiber.