Corn Salad: Kitchen Basics

Mache corn saladMâche…corn salad…lamb’s lettuce is a mild-flavored salad green that you can serve alone or as a counterpoint to strong-flavored greens such as arugula and chicory.

Mâche (say ‘mah-sh’) can also be steamed and served as a vegetable.

Mâche has a sweet, slightly nutty taste. Its flavor is so subtle that you’ll need to pay attention to not overpower it with vegetables or dressings that are too strong.

A dash of hazelnut oil, a few drops of lemon, and a pinch of salt are all you’ll need to make the delicate flavor of mâche stand out.

Now as for this green’s name: mâche is its French name. Corn salad is the name often used in the United States since this green tends to grow wild in many American cornfields. Lamb’s lettuce is an old English name: this green first appears in spring during lambing season and is a lamb’s favorite food and each leaf looks a bit like a lamb’s tongue.

While the peak season in the wild for mâche may be spring, this green is grown year-round in greenhouses and is available at farm markets fairly consistently.

Mâche is a cool-weather annual that is frost resistant. Frost may actually improve the flavor of mâche. Mâche grows in rosettes of spoon-sized round or oval, grey-green leaves that measure 4 to 12 inches (10-30 cm) long depending upon the variety. The leaves can feel a bit velvety to the touch.

Mâche is native to the Mediterranean region and has been in cultivation since the time of the ancient Romans.

Choose. Select crisp, bright lively green leaves that are unblemished and show no signs of wilting or yellowing. Sometimes mâche is sold with the leaves attached to the roots.

Store. Mâche will keep in the refrigerator crisper for 2 days wrapped in a paper towel and placed in a perforated plastic bag.

Prepare. Do not wash mâche until just before serving. Avoid soaking the leaves and drain thoroughly. Trim away rootlets.

Serve. Use mâche fresh in salads. It can be used in early spring in place of lettuce.

  • Mâche can be served alone or combined with other tender leaf lettuces such as Boston or Bibb. Corn salad is a common ingredient of mesclun, the lettuce green mix. Mix the subtle flavored mâche with pungent greens such as cress or mustard. Use mâche with winter greens such as Belgian endive or Treviso radicchio and frisée.
  • Dress mâche with walnut, hazelnut, or grapeseed oil dressing. Add the dressing at the last minute to ensure maximum tenderness and flavor.
  • Use mâche as a garnish on soups, cut into little pieces before serving. Mâche will add color to omelets, rice, or potato salads. Use mâche in poultry stuffings.
  • Mâche blends well with nuts, apples, and beets. Serve mâche cold with boiled beets or celery. Combine mâche with fried bacon or ham and beets.
  • To serve mâche as a hot side vegetable, cook the leaves like spinach.

Flavor partners. Mâche has a flavor affinity for beets, champagne, vinegar, chives, lemon, nuts, shallots, sherry vinegar, tarragon, and winter greens.

Nutrition. Mâche is rich in vitamins A and C, carotene, iron, and potassium.

The botanical name of mâche is Valerianella locusta. A related variety V. eriocarpa is known as Italian corn salad.