by Chef Kendall Huff
Native Foods Cafe
The world of lettuces is expanding like CRAZY. When I went to culinary school, I remember 7 maybe 8 main lettuce species that we worked with. Now, there are hundreds of lettuce types that are broken down into 6 smaller categories.
**Examples Boston, Bibb, Buttercrunch, Cassandra, Fatima, Tom Thumb, Sangria.
These are loose heads of soft, tender, almost floppy leaves. The Boston variety looks a bit like a rose, while Bibb has a smaller head that looks a bit like a cup. The leaves have a buttery texture, which accounts for the name, and come in green, red, and bronze. The flavor tends to be sweet.
**Examples Krachsalat, Iceberg, Great Lakes, Saladin, Webb's Wonderful, Crispsalat.
The guys with the crunch. Iceberg is by far the most common member of this group, and it dominates lettuce production in the U.S. Their leaves grow together in tight balls, while being very high in water, meaning you get a lot of green in a small growing space. The high water content also means that they're the lowest in calories of any of the types of lettuce.
**Examples Oak leaf, Grand Rapids, Ruby, Salad Bowl, Deer Tongue.
These are the polar opposite of crisphead. Looseleaf lettuce does not form a head, but just a loose bunch of leaves. The many varieties range dramatically in color and shape.
The leaves can be short, long, indented, and the plant itself can stick low to the ground like a short grass or be more bushy and upright. Looseleaf is also the best type for "incremental harvesting". Instead of harvesting the whole plant, you can pluck leaves off at the stem and they'll grow back fairly quickly.
**Example Little Gem, Winter Density, Bubbles, Lobjoits Green, Valmaine.
These lettuces have long cylindrical leaves based upon a firm, juicy rib, the romaine types of lettuce are excellent for use as wraps. The leaves are generally green, but can be found in red as well. Romaine types of lettuce are also unique in that they're fairly heat tolerant, meaning they can thrive even in summer when other types are wilting.
Summer Crisp Lettuce
**Example Cherokee, Barbados, Nevada, Anuenue, Magenta
The Summer Crisp types of lettuce are, as their name implies, fairly resistant to summer heat. In appearance the heads are a bit like crinkly versions of the butterhead types, but the leaves have more of a romaine-like crunch to them.
**Examples Zulu, New Yu Mai, Yu Mai Tsai.
All the varieties of Chinese lettuce tend to be quite bitter. They are usually not eaten raw, but sautéed and cooked Most types seem to have long, sword-like leaves.
Wash-Rinse-Store-Wrap in cloth
*Store away from apples, pears, and bananas. They release a ripening agent that will speed up decaying. Because of the water content, all lettuce cannot be frozen or canned for a long period of time. Once purchased or harvested, all lettuce should be eaten within 10 days.
Lettuce is filled with Vitamin A, potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, iron, copper and all but iceberg are a great soured of Vitamin C.
Lettuce Mixology Suggestions:
1- Use a mild green as the base- Boston, Bibb or endive
2- Next lettuce should be crisp-like romaine or cabbage
3- Final addition should be tart, peppery or bitter- like arugula or radicchio.
**Great example of this is in the Spring Mix at most groceries**
Here are a few little ideas to play around with…
Here is a picture of our Mini Green Salad that is a mix of baby Swiss chard, spinach, red oak, mizuna, red leaf lettuce and dandelion leaves in one salad!! Then add some sprouts, herbs, a light vinaigrette and enjoy!!
Native Foods Cafe, vegan, vegan food, vegan restaurant, lettuces, mini greens salad