Summer Greens and How to Dress Them

Early summer greens in the Midwest are a treat of taste, nutrients, and accomplishment!  Even if you didn’t plant the greens, you may have to get up early enough to get to the farmer’s market to get the good ones.

The early summer greens can be a delightful mixture of “thinnings” from the garden.  The early leaves from vegetables such as peas (shoots), turnips, radishes, Swiss chard, beets, and carrots can be added to a salad mix.  Toss the “thinnings” from greens such as kale, spinach, collards, cress, mizuna, arugula, tatsoi, and lettuce into your salad bowl.  To enliven the taste of your salads, add herbs like parsley, chives, cilantro or basil.

I plant greens every 3 – 4 weeks through early August so that I have a steady supply of the “baby” leaf lettuces and greens.  As summer heat and humidity moves in, it’s helpful to have “slow-to-bolt” lettuce varieties and greens like tatsoi and kale that can survive the hottest time of the summer.  Planting lettuce in between other vegetables can also provide a little shade and relief from the heat.  Onions, garlic, tomatoes and carrots often provide a good mix of filtered sunlight for tender lettuce varieties.

Salad greens are a rich source of a variety of nutrients.  Some of the most common nutrients found in greens and leaf lettuces include:  Vitamins A, C, E, K and the B vitamins as well as calcium, potassium and folate.

Dress your greens in simple ways so that you can train your taste buds to enjoy the simple and subtle flavors in fresh greens.  Add a small amount of olive oil, vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, and pepper right before serving and toss to coat the leaves.  Experiment with a simple vinaigrette like the one below and see if you can start to wean yourself off of the commercial dressings that are often higher in fat, sodium, and ingredients that are difficult to pronounce!   You will also save money by making your own dressing.

Simple Vinaigrette

½ cup olive oil (extra virgin has more flavor)

2 – 3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice or vinegar (red wine, white wine, balsamic, white balsamic)

½ Tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ tsp. salt

Pepper to taste

Vinaigrette Variations: 

Garlic:  Add 1 – 2 minced garlic cloves.

Herb:  Add 1 Tablespoon of chopped basil, tarragon, parsley, chervil, or chives.

Sweet Maple (for bitter greens):  Add 2 Tablespoons of maple syrup.  Replace ½ of the vinegar or lemon juice with orange juice.

Eating healthier often takes some planning.  Get your salad mixes ready on the weekend if you have a busy week ahead.  Pre-portion into bags or containers that work for lunches or dinners.  Locally grown fresh greens will be very durable for at least a week or more.

Savor the taste of summer with salads featuring locally grown ingredients that pack a powerhouse of nutrients.  Enjoy!


Mary Hilliker, RDN, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT is a Certified Viniyoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist and Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with 5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness Center and River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School in Wausau WI. Mary offers individualized Yoga Therapy and nutrition counseling. She teaches therapeutic and wellness yoga classes, mini-retreats, workshops, webinars and yoga teacher training.