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Lettuce

Lettuce

Found in hundreds of different varieties, lettuce is a can't-do-without ingredient in salads, sandwiches, wraps and spring rolls.

Nutritional Highlights

  • Romaine lettuce is dark green and richly flavored. One cup provides an excellent source of vitamin A to help promote healthy eyes, and is also a good source of vitamin C, which helps protect cells from oxidative damage, and folic acid for a healthy pregnancy.
  • A one-cup serving of green-leaf, iceberg and Romaine varieties of lettuce are all excellent sources of vitamin K, a nutrient that helps blood to clot properly.
     

History

The long lineage of lettuce could make other veggies green with envy. This crisp, crunchy vegetable was first grown on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea 4,500 years ago. Greek scholars studied it. Egyptians painted it on the walls of their tombs. And none other than Christopher Columbus brought it to the New World, where it's become the salad green for all occasions.

Varieties

It would take all day to list the hundreds of varieties of lettuce, but here are some of the most popular ones.

  • Romaine lettuce: Dark-leafed and vitamin-rich, Romaine has become one of the most popular types of lettuce in the U.S.
  • Iceberg lettuce: So named because of its paleness and cold, crunchy texture, iceberg is an oldie but a goodie.
  • Butterhead lettuce: This verdant variety grows in a rose-like shape rather than in a head.
  • Arugula, a.k.a rocket: Small leaves, long stems and big flavor characterize this rising star of the lettuce world.
  • Endive (ON-deev): Whitish, bullet-shaped and mild, this slightly bitter variety is extra crisp.
  • Radicchio: Its purplish hue offers the perfect accent for a mixed green salad.
     

When is Lettuce in Season?

Lettuce is grown in the U.S. and imported from all over the world, so it's generally available no matter what the season.

How to Choose Lettuce

The freshest lettuce is bright, unwilted and cold to the touch (grocery stores often keep it on ice or spritz it with cold water). Be sure to check a head of lettuce for worm damage and brown or slimy leaves.

How to Store Lettuce

Place the lettuce in a plastic bag before popping it into your fridge's veggie drawer or crisper. Some varieties last longer than others, so try to eat your lettuce sooner rather than later. And here's a good reason to separate your fruits and vegetables: Some fruits (especially apples) produce ethylene gases that can make your lettuce wilt quickly and turn brown.

How to Cook with Lettuce

Lettuce is usually just rinsed, torn or chopped, and eaten raw. When tossing together any salad, go for the darker, outermost leaves on a head of lettuce first, since these often contain more nutrients and flavor. Then work your way toward the middle. In this way, you can make the most of every head of lettuce.

Key Measurements

Recipes generally call for lettuce in either cups (chopped, diced or shredded) or individual leaves.

Substitutions

Swap one variety of lettuce for another, or mix and match as you like. This vegetable comes in endless sizes, colors and flavors, so get creative! Don't be timid about inventing salads that no one's ever seen before, and use light dressings for an added layer of taste.

Lettuce in Recipes

This veggie adds a cool snap and crunch to any sandwich, spring roll or wrap. But first and foremost, it's a salad-maker. Here are three fresh salads that can be mixed in minutes and served as side dishes or main courses.

For a crunchy Italian salad that'll get your guests talking, toss together this Tuscan Panzanella Salad with Kalamata olives, grape tomatoes, croutons and vinaigrette.

A healthy take on a club sandwich, this Turkey Clubhouse Salad uses fat-free mayo, skim milk and turkey bacon to make your tastebuds tingle.

And for color, flavor and ultra-quick prep time, it's hard to beat an Apple-Almond Tossed Salad. Its marmalade, olive oil and lemon juice dressing packs quite a zing and keeps this salad to just 80 calories!

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