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A delicate seasonal food it was enjoyed in summer only and not available year round until the 20th century when California grew and shipped head lettuce nationwide. No question foodie president Thomas Jefferson experimented with a number of varieties which were served daily to his family and dinner guests with vinaigrette dressing or a sprinkling of herbs and mayonnaise (his chef was French-trained). As Americans developed more sophisticated tastes traditional iceberg lettuce took a backseat to Romaine arugula endive radicchio and field greens. Originally these varieties were considered greens for the elite due to price and perishability. Of late retro salads are showing up with quarters of iceberg lettuce and dressing. For Boomers who grew up on the stuff it harkens back to the 50s along with Spam salad meatloaf canned fruit cocktail and Popsicles.
Oregano is another deer-proof perennial favorite but again use just a few small leaf pieces. Interestingly oregano tastes much milder fresh than dried unlike its cousin basil which has a far more intense flavor fresh. Anise hyssop is hard to buy in herb form but you can usually find seeds at garden centers; it grows gorgeous complex purple flowers shaped like spears and again you can use the florets for visual effect in a green salad. The leaves taste like anise or licorice. Anise hyssop isn t strictly speaking a perennial but it reliably self seeds so once you plant a few you ll have them year after year. Chives are another favorite perennial. You can cut just a few leaves and chop them into one-inch lengths for a salad and don t forget to use some of the chive blossoms as well. While we re on the onion family don t forget to use a few garlic greens - the leafy green tops of your garlic plants and the florets as well. But go easy on the garlic as a little goes a long way.
Some forms of salad have been consumed for centuries originally made mostly of cabbage and root vegetables flavored with vinegar oils and herbs. Ancient Greeks believed that raw green vegetables promoted good digestion and the Romans agreed. Early recordings of lettuce appeared back in the 6th century B.C. although it bore little resemblance to our current varieties. Salads have come a long way since the pedestrian lettuce tomato and cucumber version. Today there is no end to the hundreds of varieties ingredients and dressings available to our salad-crazed nation. In the 1920s they hit the big time as restaurant chefs created Caesar Chef Cobb and fruit salads. Canned veggies and fruits became more available and were tossed into the mix allowing Americans to eat salads year round.