Today, pre-cut or fresh-cut salad greens are the dominant force in foodservice, produce suppliers agree. Pre-cut greens range from chopped romaine hearts to custom salad mixes with global influences. Robert Schueller of Melissa's World Variety Produce, says there are at least 16 different packaged salad mixes available to foodservice, with spring mix the most-requested blend.
Spring mix, also known as mesclun, is a combo of eight to 16 young salad greens and usually includes several lettuces (such as red leaf and lollo rossa), frisee, arugula and mustard greens. The product can also contain red romaine, radicchio, mizuna, tatsoi, oak leaf lettuce, rainbow chard and baby spinach. "Spring Mix is defined seasonally and can be customized to an operator's specifications," Schueller explains.
Asian mix has made significant gains in foodservice, he claims. Standards in the blend include baby spinach, mizuna, red mustard, tatsoi and pak choi (aka bok choy). These are slightly more exotic greens with a bolder flavor profile.
Neapolitan mix has a Mediterranean slant, combining at least five varieties of greens and a maximum of 11. Included are kale, red cabbage, rainbow chard, spinach, arugula, bull's blood beet tops and baby pea shoots. The more common Italian Salad is a simple duet of romaine lettuce and radicchio.
Mache is a tender salad green with narrow, dark green leaves and a tangy taste. It also goes by the names "corn salad," "field salad" and "lamb's lettuce." Mache is one of the newest darlings of fine-dining chefs; it's often combined with crisper greens like frisee, red romaine, radicchio and baby lettuces for textural contrast.
Design-your-own mix: Earthbound Farm, growers and packagers of organic and conventional salad mixes, reports that a number of its restaurant customers combine several products to create a signature salad blend. "Spring mix has almost become a commodity," says Tonya Antle, VP of organic sales. "But you can blend it with herb salad, mache, arugula or other baby greens and make your own creation. Or you can add spring mix to chopped romaine or iceberg."