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What Is a Garden Salad?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 16, 2024
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A garden salad, sometimes referred to as a tossed salad, is primarily a mixture of raw vegetables. Two non-vegetable ingredients, which may or may not be included, are croutons and salad dressing. The dish is served cold and usually eaten before a main course. In some cases, it may be eaten in lieu of an entree.

The availability of vegetables can vary from one region to another. This means that the contents of this type of salad may vary. A garden salad is usually considered a basic salad, which means that it does not contain exotic ingredients and is generally composed of easy to obtain low cost items.

The base, or bulk, of the garden salad is lettuce. The most popular variety for this dish tends to be iceberg lettuce. There are some people who substitute other items such as mixed greens. It is common to find this variation in finer eating establishments.

Carrots are normally added to the base. These may be shredded, sliced round, or cut into match sticks. Tomatoes are another common item that may be presented in several ways. Large tomatoes may be sliced, cut into wedges or diced. Some individuals prefer using cherry tomatoes which may be served whole or cut in half.

Cucumbers are generally sliced and included. It is also likely that the salad will include onions. There are a wide variety of onions and the type that is used can widely vary. These five ingredients usually compose the basic garden salad. It is important to note, however, that other vegetables may be added, especially in upscale restaurants or in locations where there is a wide variety of fresh vegetables. In these cases, items such as peppers and mushrooms may be included.

A garden salad is sometimes referred to as a tossed salad because, in many cases, the ingredients are placed in a large bowl. Then, they are shaken or otherwise tossed so that the vegetables get mixed up, but this is not always the case. Some people layer the vegetables, especially when garden salads are made individually.

Even if a garden salad is tossed, whether the croutons and salad dressing are applied during that process or after tends to vary. It is most common for each individual to apply salad dressing to their own salad, if they want it. For the best results, all ingredients in a garden salad should be as fresh as possible and the dish should be served cold. Some people even serve garden salads on chilled plates.

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Discussion Comments
By jonrss — On Mar 21, 2012

We serve what we call a garden salad at the diner where I work but there is really nothing about it that has anything to do with a garden. It comes premade in a bag, we just take some of it out and put it in a bowl. Dressing always comes on the side. It is all pretty colorless and flavorless but people eat it up. I guess if you don't have a garden of your own you don't know what you are missing.

By nextcorrea — On Mar 21, 2012

I think a garden salad has to include fresh lettuce. Lettuce is one of the simplest and easiest things to grow in a garden or container and if you harvest it properly it will grow back over and over again.

There are also a huge variety of lettuces that completely change the flavor of any salad they are at the center of. There are also lots of great greens that can be used in place of lettuce. These are some of the healthiest and most flavorful things you can grow in your garden so why not give them a little patch of dirt?

By Ivan83 — On Mar 20, 2012

To my mind a garden salad is any salad that has fresh ingredients from your garden. I know that restaurants and especially fast food chains have tried to define what a garden salad is, but really it should be a fresh salad which is certainly not what they are serving at McDonald's.

I love to garden so I have a lot of options when putting together my garden salads. I love to use whatever is the freshest and the ripest. This makes sense because you want to enjoy the fruits of your garden when they are at their most delicious, but this also means that I get to eat a range of salads throughout the growing season. The salads I am eating in early spring will be completely different than the one I am eating in late fall.

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