Mesclun is from the Latin meaning "a mixture," in this case always a mixture of young, tender lettuces and other leafy greens.
The traditional French mesclun is a mixture of chervil, arugula, lettuce and endive in specific proportions. In the U.S. it has come to mean a mixture of any number of tender young greens, preferably with a bit of a spicy taste to at least some of them.
American mescluns may include lettuces, arugula, endives, mustards, purslane, chicory, cresses, parsleys, fennels, escarole and other tender wild greens.
Lettuces and other leafy greens of mesclun grow best in soil that is rich, loamy and of loose structure. Soils should drain well and have a slightly acid pH.
While mesclun greens can be grown as a mixture, uneven growth of different species makes it more efficient to grow each green individually and then create the appropriate mix after harvest.
Plants of mesclun are shallow rooted and will benefit from an inch of fine organic fertilizer or compost worked into the top few inches before planting. When seeds have germinated and true leaves appear, another top dressing of compost or organic fertilizer will promote growth.
Leaves best picked early in the morning before it gets hot. In the home garden, use scissors to begin harvest when plants are only a couple of inches high. Never let it get more than six inches tall, and the crop will continue to grow, making it that rare "cut and come again" crop.
Specialized harvesters similar to processing greens harvesters have been engineered to allow commercial production of mesclun greens. Cutting just above the soil line requires perfectly shaped, laser-leveled beds to avoid hitting the soil with the blades.
See particular crop names for more specific information.
See particular plants of mixture for more information.
Post-Harvest and Packing
Mesclun must be sold and eaten when fresh. The tender greens require careful washing and spin drying to reduce extra moisture in the container before packaging in plastic clamshells or bags. Some mixtures respond favorably with longer post-harvest shelf-life in modified atmosphere packaging using semi-permeable films. Mesclun greens should be quickly cooled to and maintained at 35-38F after harvest.