Green leaf lettuce is the most commonly planted lettuce in the world. There's a good chance you even had some today if you enjoy tacos, burgers, sandwiches, and, of course, salads. Botanically classified as lactuca sativa, green leaf lettuce is actually the name of a whole category of types of lettuce that give us versatile, healthy, and delicious loose-leaf lettuce.
Farmers love lettuce because new leaves continue growing even as the outer leaves are harvested. Dieticians love green leaf lettuce's nutritious stats. Many varieties of green leaf lettuce contain vitamins A, vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fiber, potassium, and folate.
Green Leaf Lettuce in Diets
The popularity of Asian lettuce wraps to cut out carbs has worked its way into many American diets. Crunchy crisp leaves of lettuce leaves filled with grains, diced veggies, and any protein make a perfect delivery system to your mouth--no forks needed. And of course, classic Americana foods include the famous bed of lettuce. Chicken salad, Jello, meatloaf, crudite, and fruit salad all look pretty on that light or dark green leafy plate.
If you're cooking your lettuce in a soup or stir-fry, make sure it's just a quick saute. Delicate lettuce leaves can lose their nutrients and flavor pretty quickly. Make sure to store your lettuce leaves properly for all your recipes. They'll keep fresh up to 10 days in the fridge if they are placed between paper towels to keep them very dry in an airtight baggie or container.
Types of Lettuce
There are four types of lettuces that the most popular salad greens fall into:
The most famous crisphead is the star of Taco Tuesday. Yep, it's iceberg lettuce. Shred the tightly packed round head of lettuce for the perfect moist and crunchy taco.
Butterhead is round with loosely packed leaves and a smooth as butter feel. These leaves make elegant salads and pretty sandwich toppings.
Romaine leaves are longer and sturdier for holding the heaviest of tuna salad. Ceasar dressing clings to the chopped leaves and thick-cut croutons. And looseleaf lettuces grow as a loosely gathered rosette with new leaves growing continuously even after being harvested.
Varieties of Lettuce
Popular varieties of lettuce are easy to find at the farmer's market or grocery store. Let's go through some of the varieties.
Arugula is earthy and tart with a peppery kick. The rounded edges are pretty and smooth. Make an arugula salad with strong flavored cheeses, wilt into pasta for color and flavor, or cook into a casserole for that peppery bite.
Bibb or Boston lettuce is in the butterhead category. You'll find this delicate lettuce in a plastic corsage-like container because the leaves are a little too delicate for the rough life of the produce aisle. Bibb salads are a melt in your mouth light salad always served with a light vinaigrette.
Endive is sometimes called Belgian endive or chicory. Oval shaped and soft, endive is shaped like a scooped spoon and is perfect to serve lightweight appetizers on.
Escarole is sometimes confusingly called endive. Escarole is used in soups like Italian Wedding Soup or pasta fagioli. It's also delicious in omelettes or frittatas.
Frisee is also called curly endive. And as the name suggest, it's got lots of curly texture along with its crunch. You'll find pretty frisee in fancy salads like a warm bacon dressing salad.
Little Gem lettuce is also called Sugar Cos lettuce. Along with having a great name for a vegetable, Little Gem leaves are sweet and sturdy. Eat them raw in salad or grill them along with other sweet veggies at a BBQ.
Mesclun salad is also called spring mix. You'll find it premixed in a plastic container in the produce aisle. The term mesclun is actually a mix of a variety of young tender lettuce leaves called baby greens. Serve this feather light mix with a very light dressing.
Oakleaf lettuce is a butterhead lettuce with a mild flavor and delicate texture. Use it as a decorative bed for mayo-based salads.
Radicchio is also called red leaf chickory or Italian chicory. Radicchio is easily recognized for its purplish red color. When used raw in a salad, radicchio has a bitterness to it. But when you cook it, the leaves turn brown and become sweet!
Romaine lettuce has a strong white rib up throughout its center. Some people prefer to only eat the dark green leaves and skip the rib, but the rib is where the crunch is! Lay the whole leaf on your sandwich or hamburger and crunch away. Romaine is also the official lettuce of the creamy Caesar salad of your dreams.