We have the people of Provençal (the region in Southern France) to thank for mesclun. Traditionally, the French make a simple salad from an assortment of leafy greens that are mixed and grown together.
In fact, mesclun comes from 'mescla' which means 'to mix'. The traditional mix included chervil, arugula, leafy lettuces and endive in equal proportions (from Wikipedia).
Today, many suppliers blend a range of salad leaves to create mesclun mixes with piquant flavour, appealing colour and interesting textures. My new favorite – called California Spicy Greens and available from Renee's Garden – is a mix of arugula, curly endive, mizuna (Japanese mustard) and red mustard. The deeply cut and fringed leaves in the photo above are mizuna.
Once the greens have grown to salad height, you can harvest what you need by cutting the plants with kitchen shears. The greens will continue growing and you can come again to cut for many more salads.
Planting and growing mesclun
It's best to grow leafy greens in spring through early summer and to start another crop in early fall, as explained in the cultivation notes at Renee's Garden. "Seeds just won't germinate well when the temperature of the soil and air regularly go above 80 degrees (26C). Keep the soil in your bed or containers evenly moist as that will produce the sweetest, most succulent leaves from plants that grow quickly and without interruption.
"It is also helpful to chill the seeds in the refrigerator overnight and plant at night so you have the coolest hours for seed to begin to sprout.
"Plan to harvest baby lettuces in the cool of the morning or in the evening after the heat of the day. Growing staggered crops is a good way to have a constant supply of ready to eat salad."
One benefit to planting in a container is its portability. Early in the season, I placed the container (pictured above) in a sunny location, sliding it under protection on the coldest nights. Now I have it in location that gets morning sun, but afternoon shade so that the tender greens are not heat stressed. Only regret ... I planted all my seeds! I wish I had saved some for a later sowing.
Why not follow the suggestions outlined here? It's not too late to give mesclun a try in your garden. You will love the tender, tasty addition to your summer salads.
Shaded mesclun bed. Renee's Garden, Sow and Grow Mesclun - Technique Tips with Photos