Edible flowers, such as these nasturtiums, dress up a summer salad.

In most parts of the country, early June is high season for green salads. Every evening I get to eat a different colorful assortment of lettuces, herbs and edible flowers. But what sort of dressing is worthy of a salad so divine?

At my house only homemade vinaigrette will do. When I asked around here at the office, everyone seemed to agree. They also agreed that there are just four essential ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt and fresh-ground black pepper.

Vinegar. White wine or red wine vinegar is what’s used in a classic vinaigrette and it is the most popular choice for salad lovers at Gardener’s Supply. In the recipes below you’ll see that many of us change out some of that plain wine vinegar with flavored vinegars. Popular substitutions are herb-infused (red basil is popular), berry-infused (raspberry is a favorite) and aged balsamic. Some people also replace a little of the vinegar with fresh lemon juice.


Gardener’s Supply offers a handy glass bottle for making homemade salad dressings. Simply pour in the ingredients to the lines on the bottle and shake. Includes recipes for Greek Dressing, Fat-Free Vinaigrette, Basic Vinaigrette and Caesar Dressing.

Oil. Extra virgin olive oil is essential and everyone said it’s worth buying the best quality you can afford. If you’re out of good, extra virgin olive oil, use canola oil rather than a cheap, heavy-weight olive oil. The standard rule for vinaigrette is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil.

Garlic. Most people add a little garlic to their vinaigrette. Some add lots. Be sure you mince it super-fine so no one gets surprised by a chunk. I prefer using shallots rather than garlic because the flavor is milder.

Sweet. Not everyone adds a sweetener, but a pinch of white sugar, brown sugar, honey or maple syrup is a nice compliment to the salty and sour flavors.

Extras. Dijon mustard is another popular addition. Using a splash of tamari instead of salt adds umami (that elusive fifth flavor of savoriness.

Here are a few vinaigrette recipes from salad lovers on our staff. If you have a special favorite of your own, please share it in the comments field below.

From Liz in Merchandising

“I reserve my best olive oil for salads. My favorite dressing is made with a lemon-flavored olive oil that I get in Portland, Maine, mixed with 12-year-old balsamic vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. People devour it and we never seem to tire of it. In the summer I’ll often use really good Greek, French or California olive oil with nothing but fresh lemon juice, sea salt and pepper. When I serve salads with heartier greens, fruit, nuts or cheese, I make a beefier dressing.”

  • 2 T Grand Marnier
  • 1 T white wine vinegar
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 T Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

From Maree in Public Relations

“We’re often feeding a crowd on short notice so we tend to keep it simple!”

  • 2/3 T red wine vinegar or good balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

From Kay in Merchandising

“When we lived in France, we made the classic vinaigrette. Once we moved to Vermont we began adding a secret ingredient.”

  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Herbes de Provence
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp tamari
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

From Kathy in Brand Services

“This vinaigrette keeps for weeks in the fridge. I’ve been making the same recipe for years and haven’t found one I like better.”

  • 1 T good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T cider vinegar
  • 2 T tamari
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1 tsp country Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp minced shallot
  • 3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh, coarsely-ground pepper

By Kathy LaLiberte

Director of Gardening, Gardener’s Supply