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Mesclun of Nice is really just mixed salad greens. Here's how to grow it.

Mesclun of Nice is really just mixed salad greens. Here's how to grow it

You won't find mesclun in Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged); you won't find it in the Larousse Gastronomique either. You may find it for sale (at a considerable price) in upper-bracket produce markets in larger cities. You can certainly grow it in your own garden--if you start soon. For mesclun (or mesclum, or mezclum) is merely the name given to young, tender, mixed salad greens; the name comes from the word mescla, which means to mix in the dialect of Nice, in southern France.

Although some authorities insist that a mixture of arugula (roquette), dandelion, and new lettuce is the original and only true mesclun, others maintain that the numbers and proportions of the ingredient greens are limitless. The consensus is that arugula, with its piquant flavor suggesting (to some) peanuts and mustard, must be in the mix. Other suggested ingredients are chervil, various chicories (curly endive, broad-leafed endive or escarole, radicchio), and lettuces, especially loose-leaf and romaine types.

You can combine seeds yourself or buy a ready-made mix; one mail-order source is Le Marche Seeds International, Box 566, Dixon, Calif. 95620 (catalog $2).

Sowing, growing, picking

Scatter seeds thinly on rich, well-prepared garden soil; cover with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil, water well, and keep damp until seeds sprout. For an extended harvest, sow them every two weeks except in very hot weather. Begin picking when the leaves are 1 1/2 to 2 inches long. Where winters are cold, sow seeds now in a greenhouse or other protected area, or wait until early spring.

An unvarying rule is that leaves must be picked when young and tender; 3 inches long is maximum. Harvest individual leaves or whole plants (particularly if plants are growing very thickly). Serve with a vinaigrette.

Photo: A week after sowing, Mesclun fills lower edge of bed above, with other lettuces behind. Three weeks later (right), arugula is the most prominent

Photo: Arugula (top left) is essential in mesclun. Young romaine (lower left) and curly endive are other usable greens
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Date:Oct 1, 1987
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