A salad is a dish consisting of a mixture of small pieces of food, usually vegetables or fruit. However, different varieties of salad may contain virtually any type of ready-to-eat food, Salads are typically served at room temperature or chilled, with notable exceptions such as south German potato salad which can be served warm.
Garden salads use a base of leafy greens such as lettuce, arugula/rocket, kale or spinach; they are common enough that the word salad alone often refers specifically to garden salads. Other types include bean salad, tuna salad, fattoush, Greek salad (vegetable based, but without leafy greens), and sōmen salad (a noodle-based salad). The sauce used to flavor a salad is commonly called a salad dressing; most salad dressings are based on either a mixture of oil and vinegar or a fermented milk product like kefir.
The word “salad” comes to English from the French salade of the same meaning, itself an abbreviated form of the earlier Vulgar Latin herba salata (salted greens), from the Latin salata (salted), from sal (salt). In English, the word first appears as “salad” or “sallet” in the 14th century. Salt is associated with salad because vegetables were seasoned with brine (a solution of salt in water) or salty oil-and-vinegar dressings during Roman times. The phrase “salad days”, meaning a “time of youthful inexperience” (based on the notion of “green”), is first recorded by Shakespeare in 1606, while the use of salad bar, referring to a buffet-style serving of salad ingredients, first appeared in American English in 1976.
The Romans and ancient Greeks ate mixed greens with dressing, a type of mixed salad. Salads, including layered and dressed salads, have been popular in Europe since the Greek and Roman imperial expansions. In his 1699 book, Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets,, John Evelyn attempted with little success to encourage his fellow Britons to eat fresh salad greens. Mary, Queen of Scots, ate boiled celery root over greens covered with creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil, and slices of hard-boiled eggs.
Oil used on salads can be found in the 17th-century colony of New Netherland (later called New York, New Jersey and Delaware). A list of common items arriving on ships and their designated prices when appraising cargo included “a can of salad oil at 1.10 florins” and “an anker of wine vinegar at 16 florins”. In a 1665 letter to the Director of New Netherland from the Island of Curaçao there is a request to send greens: “I request most amicably that your honors be pleased to send me seed of every sort, such as cabbage, carrots, lettuce, parsley, etc. for none can be acquired here and I know that your honor has plenty,…”.
Salads may be sold in supermarkets, at restaurants and at fast food chains. In the United States, restaurants will often have a “salad bar” with salad-making ingredients, which the customers will use to put together their salad. Salad restaurants were earning more than 0 million in 2014. At-home salad consumption in the 2010s was rising but moving away from fresh-chopped lettuce and toward bagged greens and salad kits, with bag sales expected to reach billion per year.