Spring Greens

10 Fresh, Tender Lettuces and Greens of Spring

Spring Salad Greens
Baby Lettuces. Kodiak Greenwood/Getty Images

Fresh, tender spring greens, including baby lettuces, are the first signs that the lighter dishes of spring are on their way (and that hearty winter eating is coming to an end). Learn about spring greens below and start looking for them as the days get longer. Then use them in one of these delicious spring salads.

Avoid the horror of gritty salads and be sure to clean your spring greens thoroughly.

  • 01 of 10

    Arugula

    Big and Small Arugula Leaves
    Arugula Leaves. Photo © Getty Images/ Maximilian Stock Ltd.

    Arugula is a dark green, peppery green that is used both raw and cooked. Wild arugula tend to have more of a kick than the cultivated kind. If the level of peppery kick is important to you, be sure to taste a bit before you buy, if possible, since its flavor ranges from quite mild to rather spicy. Learn more about arugula here.

    Try Arugula With Broiled Lemon Salad and these Arugula Salad Rolls for a fun way to try this old favorite. 

  • 02 of 10

    Baby Lettuces

    Spring Salad Greens
    Baby Lettuces. Kodiak Greenwood/Getty Images

     Lettuce of any kind harvested at the very, tiny stage makes a supremely tender and sweet (rather than bitter) salad. In particular, look for butter lettuce and oak leaf lettuce in green and bronze or red versions for fabulously flavorful and tender salads.

  • 03 of 10

    Butter Lettuce or Boston Lettuce

    Boston Lettuce
    Butter Lettuce. Photo © Francesca Yorke/Getty Images

    Butter or Boston lettuce is a delicate, head lettuce with very loose, cup-like leaves. Toss the leaves with a simple Lemon Vinaigrette or use them in this Butter Lettuce Asparagus Salad or as the vehicles in this Chicken Lettuce Cups.

  • 04 of 10

    Chard

    Bunches of Chard
    Rainbow Chard. Photo © Maximilian Stock Ltd./Getty Images

    Chard comes in Swiss (white ribs), red, golden, and mixed rainbow versions. Each has its own flavor, but an earthy edge defines them all. Chard is usually cooked, but can be chopped up and added to salads raw. In any case, many dishes benefit from cutting the ribs out from the leaves and cooking them separately—see how here Learn more about chard here.

    Try this Swiss Chard Gnocchi Casserole and this Chard, Beans, and Barley Soup. Get more chard recipes here.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Dandelion Greens

    Bunches of Dandelion at Farmers Market
    Dandelion Greens. Photo © Bill Boch/Getty Images

    Dandelion are dark green and famously bitter. Long, slow cooking mellows their bitterness, if that's what you want, but some of us love that cleansing taste of fresh and sharp dandelion greens. Learn more about dandelion greens here.

  • 06 of 10

    Escarole

    Green Escarole (Endive)
    Escarole. Bernard Van Berg / EyeEm

    Escarole isn't only grown in the spring, but spring escarole is sweeter and more tender than at other times of year. Escarole is delicious simply cooked, as in this Sautéed Escarole. It is also a fabulous pairing with small spring beets in this Escarole Beet Salad. Look for smooth-leaf and frizzy varieties.

  • 07 of 10

    Pea Shoots or Pea Greens

    Pea Greens
    Green Peas & Their Greens. Maximilian Stock Ltd./Getty Images

    Pea greens are the vines on which peas would eventually grow. They tend to be available—in giant tangled masses—at farmers markets in spring and early summer when farmers thin their fields. Learn more about pea greens here.

  • 08 of 10

    Spinach

    Bunch of Fresh Spinach
    Spinach. istetiana/Getty Images

    Spinach is so widely available all year-round, it's easy to forget that the small, tender leaves of spring spinach are a real treat. There is a sweetness to their dark green leaves that is perfect in spinach salads. I love to use them to make this Wilted Spinach Salad and this Spinach Pistachio Pasta. Find more spinach recipes here.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Spring Mix

    Spring Lettuce Salad Leaves
    Spring Mix. Moppet/Getty Images

     Bags of "spring mix salad greens" are often available year-round. Ideally, these mixes are a combination of different baby lettuces along with a bit of arugula, spinach, and/or baby chard.

  • 10 of 10

    Watercress

    Fresh Cress
    Watercress. Photo © Roger Dixon/Getty Images

    Watercress has a bright, peppery flavor prized for salads. It grows wild in streams in Northern America and Europe, but is easily cultivated with the right irrigation. Much cultivated "watercress" is actually garden cress, which has less bite and crunch than true watercress. Whatever cress we're talking about, they're all members of the mustard family. The older they get—either in the ground or after being harvested—the sharper their flavor becomes. Use cress as soon as possible...MORE after its been picked, discarding any yellowed or wilted leaves when you clean it. Note that the tender stalks and roots are perfectly edible along with the dark green leaves.