I am an avid salad eater, I mean, I love me a big salad, you can just call me Elaine Benes.  However, when we were discussing crops to grow this year, my husband Jon mentioned mesclun mix and I had no idea what the heck he was talking about.

He informed me that it was a variety of different green grown, and you cut them, mix them up, and sell them as a mesclun salad mix.

That was a good explanation, don’t get me wrong, but I still had no idea what mesclun was.

So, I went on a research mission and picked up the market gardener by JM Fortier to see what he had to say about mesclun mix. 

Here’s what I found.

What Is Mesclun?

The word ‘mesclun’ comes from mesclar, a word in the Occitan language spoken in Provence.

This word is derived from the Latin misculare, meaning to ‘mix thoroughly.’

It is described in France as a mix of baby lettuce, chicory, arugula, and sorrel.

However, here in North America, there are no rigid ideas about what mesclun should be, so you can be free to include any number of leafy veggies of various colours and textures that are pleasing to the eye and palate.

The only criteria that mesclun mix should have is they should be bite-sized (2-4” long) and prewashed, ready to be eaten.

Mesclun Recipe

JM’s recipe calls for Asian greens in the spring and fall, with the first and last seedings grown in unheated hoophouses, and a mix of lettuces in the summer.

Throughout the season, they also add baby swiss chard, chicory, or kale to supplement the basic ingredients.

The primary ingredients in JM’s popular mesclun mixes are:

  • Baby leaf romaine
  • Oakleaf lettuces
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Chicory

They also harvest some other uncommon garden forage such as:

  • Brassica flowers
  • Pea flowers
  • Overripe lettuce cores
  • Young cabbage sprouts

His clients appreciate the diversity of the mix, but not at the expense of the quality of each ingredient.

They do not pick greens that have become too thick, too spicy, too coarse, or too ugly.

Having high standards can go a long way to growing a loyal customer base.

Varieties of Mesclun:

These are the crops the JM grows for his mesclun mix:

  • Asian Greens: Ruby Streaks, Tatsoi, Mizuna
  • Lettuce: Tango, Buttercrunch, Lollo Rossa, Firecracker
  • Arugula
  • Kale: Red Russian
  • Swiss Chard: Rainbow
  • Spinach: Space
  • Salanova: Mini-head

Benefits of Growing Mesclun

Mesclun is a crop designed for the market garden. It is fast-growing, in just 30-40 days it generates a good revenue per square foot.

It’s a great catch crop, allowing rapid turnover for succession seeding.

You can grow it all year round, even in harsh winters.

For these reasons, mesclun is JM’s signature crop. It is the only crop they sell wholesale, guaranteeing a steady supply weekly to local grocery stores and restaurants.

Challenges of Growing Mesclun

The biggest challenge for JM and team with this crop is producing beautiful mesclun in sufficient quantity to meet weekly sales. This means doing so without any shortages due to crop failure, or variations in growth due to changing weather.

They manage this task by planning for a new crop every 15 days, aiming to have 2 or 3 cuts from the same planting.

This approach allows them to buffer production and pick and choose what they want from different seedbeds on a weekly basis.

Seeding dates are closer together in the fall, as the slower growth rate is taken into account as the days get shorter.

Light, not temperature, is the limiting factor when extending the mesclun growing season.

Sowing Mesclun

JM direct seeds their mesclun using a Six-Row Seeder.

This tool seeds a 12-row bed in two passes, which gives a very intensive crop spacing at 12 rows, 2 ¼” apart, spaced every ½”.

While this method gives excellent yield, it has its drawbacks as well.

First, planting 100 ft. of salad consumes 2.5 oz. of seeds, which means that seed orders are pretty pricey.

Secondly, the beds must be kept weed-free as hoeing is impossible with such dense seedings.

To keep weeding to a minimum, JM and team prepare their beds for seeding well in advance and always use the false seedbed technique.

When the leaves reach a height of about 1”, they use a hand-pushed finger weeder that cultivates the exposed soil between the rows.

This provides the crop a good head start over the weeds, eventually forming a leafy canopy that shades out undesirable weeds.

Pests and Diseases

The biggest concern for mesclun is the flea beetle, which can ruin a crop if not kept under control.

Breaking up plantings of Asian greens with lettuce is generally enough to interrupt the pest’s life cycle.

However, covering the mesclun beds with ow covers or insect nets immediately after seeding is an added protection.

It is also important to do regular inspections to ensure there are no flea beetles trapped inside the netting. 

harvesting mesclun

Harvesting Mesclun

You can harvest the greens manually, using field knives, cutting one handful at a time.

Harvesting about 300lbs a week this way is feasible, but time-consuming and hard on the body.

JM and team use a hand-held electric salad mix harvester powered by a hand drill that cuts the greens at their base.

This helps get the job done neatly and quickly, cutting the work by more than 80% (what used to take 3 people working for three hours; now takes 1 person less than two hours).


Once the leaves are harvested, JM and team put them in a cold water bath and gently mix them.

Take this opportunity to remove any damaged leaves, insects, and weeds.

Next, spin the greens dry. JM uses a washing machine as a spinner. 

This is an important step if the salad is going to have a long shelf life.

They then put the mesclun in half-pound bags.

Their freshly harvested artisanal mesclun mix will stay fresh for over a week.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a way to spice up your salad mix line on your market farm, try growing mesclun.

It’s a popular mix which you have creative control over. You can surprise your customers with all sorts of delicious combinations of greens.

I highly recommend following JM Fortier for his mesclun mix expertise as it is his signature crop and he is a very experienced market farmer. Why not learn from the best?

We are growing a wide variety of salad greens this season, and if all goes well, hopefully, we can branch out a little and provide some mesclun for next season.

Do you grow mesclun on your market farm? Please tell us about your experience in the comments below.

Stay Local,

Kathy & Jon

your friendly neighbourhood growers



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