Do you know your iceberg from your romaine lettuce? These versatile vegetables can be used way beyond the salad bowl – adding flavour, texture and freshness to everything from soups to roasts. Read on for ultimate guide to the perfect way to use up everything in your salad drawer.
A member of the mustard family, watercress has a strong peppery flavour. Both the leaves and stems are edible and can be cooked or eaten raw. Bake into creamy watercress and ham quiches or blitz into a punchy watercress guacamole with homemade vegetable crisps for a healthy snack.
The peppery flavour of rocket is similar to watercress but slightly less strong. Its spiky leaves stand up well to robust flavours such as aged hard cheeses and cured meats. Layer on top of sweet butternut squash and salty cheese for a 10-minute toast topper or use to finish a griddled chicken, broad bean and rocket pizza.
Also known as cos, romaine lettuce has long, narrow leaves that are traditionally used in Caesar salad. The outer leaves are slightly more bitter than the sweet leaves in the centre. Try something different by braising the leaves and serving with crème fraîche and bacon for an easy way to make salad feel indulgent.
A miniature version of the romaine lettuce, Little Gem lettuces are perfect for small households – one lettuce has enough leaves to make a side salad for two. Separate the leaves and use in place of burger buns for Chinese-inspired crispy pork lettuce cups.
Also known as butterhead lettuce, round lettuces have large, overlapping leaves with a sweet flavour. Tear the leaves apart and use as a base layer for Pimm’s glazed pulled chicken to soak up all the sticky juices. For a fresh spring lunch, blitz into a light pea and lettuce soup, topped with a poached egg.
Sometimes known as endive, chicory has a smooth texture and a slightly bitter crunch. When raw, its sturdy leaves are ideal for scooping up dips – these honeyed goat’s cheese chicory boats are an easy canapé. Roasting mellows the bitter flavour and brings out a natural sweetness, such as in this caramelised chicory with orange and thyme.
Crisp iceberg lettuce is a retro favourite, often sandwiched into a burger or shredded in a prawn cocktail. Its tightly compacted, cabbage-shaped leaves stay fresher for longer than other lettuces so it’s a great value option if you only use a little at a time. Barbecuing lettuce sounds unusual but really works – try a griddled iceberg lettuce and prawn salad or delicate prawn summer rolls.
Baby spinach has a milder flavour than regular spinach. Get some veg into your breakfast by adding a handful to berry smoothies or layering in a creamy spinach and Parmesan croissant for a more indulgent start to the day. For a one-pan brunch, this spinach menemen with spicy chorizo and golden eggs is ideal for two.
With its brightly coloured stems and sweet, nutty flavour, rainbow chard makes an interesting alternative to spinach. Chard benefits from light cooking, particularly when the stalks and leaves are older and can become coarse. This rainbow chard with raisins and pine nuts makes the most of the whole veg for a colourful side dish.
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