By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Mache, the so-called “gourmet green”, is rapidly gaining popularity in American kitchens. Hailing from France, this nutrient-packed lettuce is one of the best leaves you can find for a healthy diet. Plus, it tastes deliciously nutty, is packed with vitamin C and only has 15 calories per 100g – a great leaf for a classy appetizer or a fresh summer salad for sharing with family.
What is Mache?
Pronounced the French way – “mosh” – mache is a sweet, creamy, nutty-tasting lettuce with thin stems and a loose bunch of leaves. Also known as lamb’s lettuce, corn salad, field salad, or field lettuce, mache has dark green, spoon-shaped leaves and a distinctive tangy flavor.
Mache is native to France and has been cultivated there since the 17th century. It is said that the lamb’s lettuce name comes from the lettuce leaves’ resemblance to the shape of a lamb’s tongue.
How to Use Mache
Because mache is a delicate leaf it is really best as a raw salad ingredient. This super-leaf tastes great with sliced blue cheese and a honey-mustard dressing, or combined with field mushrooms in a salad, or with new potatoes, garlic, arugula, parsley or eggs. You could try lightly sautéing it with spinach or adding it to the end stage of making a soup.
Mache –Where to Get It
Mache is best from May through November. Your best bet for getting your hands on this tasty leaf in the US is at a Whole Foods Market store, and Trader Joe’s also carries mache although it was discontinued a while back. Mache doesn’t keep long so make sure you use it within a few days of purchase. In Europe, mache is a long kept secret of the French, who eat it viraciously in salads.
Need more inspiration? Here’s why mache is not only tasty but packs a powerful nutritional punch.
1. Mache is Full of Vitamin C
Not all lettuces and greens are good for vitamin C – iceberg lettuce is particularly poor, for example.
But mache on the other hand is packed with this important nutrient. From one 3.5-ounce serving you get 64 percent of the daily value of vitamin C, according to the USDA's Nutrition Facts data.
On a weight-for-weight basis, mache has almost as much vitamin C as a lemon. Add a lemon dressing to your mache salad and you’ve got a vitamin C-packed lunch. Vitamin C is crucial for its antioxidant effect as well as helping the body produce collagen and preventing colds and flus.
2. Get Your Vitamin B6 from Mache
Chickpeas, beef liver, and tuna are all good sources of vitamin B6 but mache also contains large amounts of this crucial B complex vitamin.
In fact, a 100-gram serving of the lettuce provides 14 percent of the daily value of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine helps the body metabolize amino acids, builds cognitive development, and improves immune function.
A 1995 study from Chiang Mai University, Thailand even showed that vitamin B6 can help to prevent morning sickness in pregnancy.
3. Mache -- Better Than Spinach for Iron
Did you know mache provides nearly a third more iron than a comparable amount of spinach?
A 3.5-ounce serving of mache has 12 percent of the daily value of iron. If you combine spinach leaves and mache leaves in a salad you markedly decrease your risk of iron deficiency.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world, according to Shils et al in “Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease”, and at least 700 million people worldwide suffer from it. Iron deficiency causes anemia, can make you tired and even cause fainting. Some experts believe that iron deficiency also makes your body burn fewer calories.
The iron found in plants, nonheme iron, is less easily absorbed by the body than the iron from animal products so eating mache is a good way of boosting your intake if you are vegetarian.
4. Mache Has Masses of Vitamin A
Mache has 14 times as much vitamin A as iceberg lettuce - 100g of the lettuce provides a whopping 142 percent of the daily value for this important nutrient. Vitamin A is important for eye health, healthy mucous membranes, and for its antioxidant effect that helps to protect the body against damage from free radicals, which means your cells do not get damaged, become cancerous or age fast.
5. Mache is a Source of Copper
Copper is a valuable nutrient that is often overlooked in the diet. Eating 100g of mache gives you 7 percent of the daily value of copper – a good amount for a salad green.
Studies like 1994 research from the University of California at San Diego have linked trace minerals like copper to a lower incidence of osteoporosis, and other experts say that a good intake of copper is important for keeping cholesterol levels under control and protecting against high blood pressure.
6. Get Your Potassium from Mache Greens
Mache is a superior source of potassium. A 100g serving of mache provides 13 percent of the daily value for potassium, according to the USDA's Nutrition Facts data. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure – a 1997 study from The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore shows that potassium can produce a slight but definite drop in blood pressure.
7. Did You Know Mache is a Natural Source of Omega-3s?
People associate omega-3 fatty acids with fish but plants can also be a source of these nutrients. A 4-ounce serving of mache has over 250mg of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to lower your triglyceride levels, lower inflammation, and may even help combat depression.