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Lettuce, Head

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Preview of Lettuce, Head

Available

July 15 - September 30

Harvest Period

July 15 - September 30

The word lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is probably derived from the Old French laitue, meaning milky since a heavy, white juice is released when leaves are cut.  The association between lettuce and milk is also evident in the Latin root word lac or milk.

What to Look For

Regardless of the type, all lettuces should feature crisp looking, unwilted leaves that are free of dark or slimy spots, particularly along the leaf edges. Lettuces such as Romaine and Boston should have compact heads and stem ends that are not too brown.

Cleaning and Preparation

Chop the root end off the lettuce head and separate the head into leaves. Rinse leaves in cold water and spin until dry. Simply in Season, a Mennonite Central Committee cookbook, recommends placing the rinsed greens in a clean pillowcase and swinging it around outdoors until the leaves are dry. However, salad spinners or clean tea towels will also accomplish this task.

Storage

Most lettuces and other greens keep best in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper. Iceberg should keep for up to two weeks, romaine for about 10 days, and butterhead and leaf lettuces for about four days. Generally it is recommended to store lettuce in an airtight container in a refrigerator drawer.

Nutritional Information

Not all lettuce is created equal! Dark green lettuce is always a more nutritious choice than light green. Romaine lettuce is a very good source of vitamins A, C, and K along with folate, manganese, and certain phytochemicals (coumarin, flavonoids, and lactucin) that act as mild sedatives. Iceberg lettuce pales in comparison with eight times less vitamins A and C, and three times less vitamin K than Romaine. All lettuce is exceptionally low in calories and contains over 90% water.

One cup of shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce provides 10 calories, 0g fat, 2g carbohydrate, 1g fibre, and 1g protein.

How to Use

Lettuce provides the basis for mixed salads that include a wide variety of other fresh vegetables and fruit.  In wraps and on sandwiches, lettuce conveys a crisp texture and crunch. While not usually cooked, braised lettuce is a classic ingredient in English Peas and Lettuce.

Varieties

Four major types of lettuce are grown in Ontario:

Butterhead (which includes Boston and Bibb) varieties: Buttercrunch, Summer Bibb, Dark Green Boston and Citation

Crisphead (which includes iceburg lettuce) varieties: Ithaca, Montello, Green Lake and Salad Crisp

Looseleaf (which includes red and green leaf lettuce) varieties: Black-seeded Simpson, Grand Rapids Forcing and Red Fire

Romaine varieties: Paris Island Cos, Green Towers and Tall Guzmaine