Salad season is here, so no better time to get familiar with those core components that make up our favourite leafy lunches and nutrient-dense dinners. With the range of salad leaves available in Ireland, it’s worth knowing how to identify them and understanding when best to use them. Check out our guide here, plus handy recipes you can whip up at home.
Romaine’s long, narrow leaves are ideal for adding crunch to salads, burgers and sandwiches and is a must-have for Caesar salads, like this roasted chicken Caesar salad. The outer leaves are typically a little more bitter than the tender inner leaves.
Watercress is slightly more peppery than rocket, which makes sense as its part of the mustard family. Mix with milder leaves in a salad, or use it to elevate the flavour profile of dishes like the classic egg mayo. We love the peppery bite it adds to this luxurious duck, fig and beetroot salad.
Oak lettuce comes in red and green varieties; it is firm and crisp with a mild, sweet and nutty flavour. We love it for an added crunch in burgers, like these spicy chickpea burgers.
Peppery and piquant, rocket packs a flavour punch. It stands up well to stronger flavours like aged cheeses or cured meats, so try it in robust salads or a side with charcuterie or roasted veg. It’s the perfect peppery counterpart to juicy watermelon and rich goat’s cheese in this summery salad.
Raw spinach has a mild, slightly sweet taste that can be refreshing in salads, while its flavour becomes more acidic and robust when it is cooked. This antioxidant-rich salad is the perfect way to get the most out of spinach’s velvety texture and sweet flavour profile.
Crisp and refreshing, iceberg lettuce has pale green leaves and grows in cabbage-like bulbs. Iceberg is perfect for adding crunch to burgers and sandwiches, and is a must-have for a deliciously retro wedge salad.
This miniature variety of romaine lettuce looks similar to its larger relative, but has a slightly sweeter flavour and a thinner, crisper stalk. Little gem is often the go-to for lettuce cups, or hand-held bites that usually contain a combination of protein and, usually, rice. These Thai turkey lettuce cups benefit from the fresh crunch and sturdy base that little gem offers.
As the name suggests, the head is round, with leaves that are crisp in the middle but softer and deeper in colour further out. Like little gem, round lettuce also is ideal for salad cups: it’s softer than little gem, so is the perfect textural balance to heartier meat in these sesame steak lettuce cups with sticky rice.
This leafy green comes in a variety of colours, shapes and textures. It’s often eaten raw in salads, but we recommend massaging it beforehand; massaging kale helps to break down its tough texture, making it easier to chew. We love it in a twist on the classic Caesar salad, but it also adds a rich, moreish component to these kale and quinoa fritters. Check out more reasons why we love kale here.
Hungry for more? Don’t miss miss more of our favourite ways to use fresh Irish salad leaves this summer here.