The salad leaves we love

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The salad leaves we love

Do you know your gem from your cos? These are a few of our favourite leaves – and when to use which one.

Baby gem lettuce

This baby cousin of cos lettuce has a sweet, crisp heart. Separate the leaves and keep them whole. For a sturdier salad, split them lengthways.

The leaves are perfect dippers for anything from hummus to guacamole.

Try: Thai red chicken curry lettuce cups.

Chicory, witlof or Belgian endive

The slightly bitter spear-shaped leaves will spike a mix of leaves in a green salad. On their own they love roasted walnuts and blue cheese. They are also good cooked.

Halve lengthways and gently braise with butter and lemon and serve this as a side or use in a quiche made with cream and Gruyère.

Try: Royal Ashton cheesy baked endives.

Cos lettuce

These elegant, elongated leaves are the hero of the Caesar salad. For five-star success, follow a classic recipe and use only the best ingredients, but these are great in any green salad.

Tear the leaves to soak up the dressing, or leave whole, adding steamed whole asparagus or green beans, then spoon over a hard-boiled egg dressing.

Try: Classic Caesar salad with prawns.

Red leaves

Shred raddichio, red lettuce and red cabbage finely and mix with red wine vinegar and olive oil, adding thinly sliced radishes and red spring onions.

Or warm shredded leaves briefly in olive oil until barely wilted, then toss with a lemony, garlicky dressing.

Try: Red cabbage slaw


The regular or feathery wild rocket leaves are a cook’s stand-by.

No time to toss a salad? Simply add a tuft of these peppery leaves to a plated main course. Drizzle over olive oil and, if you like, a squeeze of lemon juice. Add a big handful to a pasta sauce, just before serving, to wilt ever so slightly, or pound into a robust pesto.

Try: Pickled radish, avocado and rocket salad.


Use the delicate baby leaves raw in salads and steam whole spinach leaves until barely cooked. Or pound cooked spinach with butter, cream and garlic into a bright green purée.

The tougher Swiss chard leaves, known as spinach in South Africa, will need to be chopped and cooked briefly.

Try: Grapefruit, feta, avo, cashew and spinach salad.

TASTE Article by: TASTE

The TASTE team is a happy bunch of keen cooks and writers, always on the look out for the next food trend or the next piece of cake.

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