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.