Season for Lettuce Available Year-Round

Lettuce Described

Because hundreds of varieties of lettuce are grown all around the world, salad lovers and savvy dieters are lucky to always have a plenitude of this lunchtime favorite to crunch on. Crisp, cool and refreshing, in the US we are are privy to four main types of the ever-ubiquitous leafy green lettuces, those being: butterhead, crisphead (or Iceberg as we know it), romaine (or cos) and leaf. While vegetables such as arugula, watercress, spinach and mizuna are not technically lettuce, they’re used interchangeably in salads. Mesculin refers to a mix of lettuces and other greens. One thought-provoking historical note on lettuce: A narcotic from the thickened juice of some lettuces has been used as an opium substitute.

How to Buy and Store Lettuce

When selecting any kind of lettuce, choose those that are crisp, vibrant and free of blemishes, dark or slimy spots. Also, the leaves’ edges should be sans any brown or yellow discoloration. Refrigerate pre-washed-and-dried greens airtight in a plastic bag for 3 to 5 days. Whole leaves attached to the butt of the lettuce will keep much longer than broken, chopped and washed leaves, one reason to opt for the whole head over bagged-and-ready-to-go varieties.

How to Cook Lettuce

Lettuce is synonymous with salad. Generally speaking, we take our lettuce raw; as a salad base, added to sandwich fillings, in tacos or as a garnish. As with all greens, lettuce needs to be washed, but should be fully drained or dried subsequently. Reason being, when dressing a salad the leaves should be dry otherwise the dressing will slide right off. You can blot the leaves with a paper towel or save yourself some aggravation and have a salad spinner on hand. Never allow lettuce to soak, as the water tends to soften the leaves. When preparing whole lettuces, discard any wilted outer leaves.

Salad fixings are only limited by your imagination. Try our Winter Organic Salad With Pears, Pine Nuts and Ricotta Salata, and feel free to dress it up with your own style!

Health Benefits of Lettuce

Keep in mind that the darker green your leaves, the more nutrients they contain. As a green vegetable, lettuce contains many of the same nutrients found in other green vegetables, although because of its high water content, mostly in lesser amounts. These include vitamins, minerals, water, and fiber but essentially no protein or fat. That said, if you think about how much lettuce is in a serving versus – say a serving of broccoli – lettuce begins to add up! It’s rich in calcium, iron and vitamins C and A. Lactucarium (or the “Lettuce Opium” we cited earlier) is a mild opiate-like substance found in lettuce. Owing to it, both the Romans and Egyptians ate lettuce at the end of a meal to induce sleep. 

Why Buy Natural and Organic Lettuce

To prevent deterioration, many pre-packaged bags of salad leaves are soaked in a chlorine solution that unfortunately removes most the nutrients and flavor. Therefore, if you’re going this route – which can be vastly more convenient – look for organic bags and/or those that indicate they’ve been washed in spring water instead. Bags of prepared salads are also filled with MAP (Modified Atmosphere Packaging), a process whereby oxygen is removed in order to stop the leaves from browning, which means that once the bags are opened, the leaves will wilt quickly. Fresh, organic and from your farmers market will give you the most nutritious, flavorful and crisp lettuce.