The Mystery of the Different Types of Lettuce

Written on January 9th, 2006 by blogger
Posted in Food and Drinks

Note: This article was originally written for The Information Bank. Because of the high volume of related posts, I've decided to move the articles here.

butterhead.jpgWhen I was a kid, I went to the local grocery store to buy lettuce for sandwiches. I looked around the produce section and finally found the leafy-greens section. When I looked at the labels, I was overwhelmed with the many different types of lettuce to choose. I mean, what on earth is Romaine lettuce? All I knew is that I needed something green to fill sandwiches for later. Which one to choose?

It’s such a stressful situation like that instance when you’re at the grocery store and you have too many choices. Lettuce is no exception. “But, can’t I just interchange them? Isn’t iceberg lettuce in tacos just as good as iceberg lettuce in salads?” you ask. No! Please, don’t use green leaf lettuce in salad, romaine lettuce in tacos, and, most importantly, DO NOT use iceberg lettuce in your sandwich. That particular atrocity is one of my pet-peeves. So, what is the proper way to use each type?

It’s easy really. Just consider how you plan to use the lettuce.

  • Iceburg: This is a thick, watery, crispy type of lettuce. In fact, most of it is just water, fiber, and chlorophyll (a chemical that gives plants their green color). Basically, iceberg lettuce has next to nothing in nutritional value. Experienced cooks find it best to use shredded iceberg lettuce in tacos. It gives tacos that characteristic crunch. Because of it’s pale color, try not to use iceberg lettuce in a salad. Salad is supposed to look vibrant green, lush and appealing, not pale green and dead.
  • Romaine: This is a very crispy type of lettuce. Parts of it are thin (the leaves) while others are pretty thick and watery (the stock). Romaine is mostly used with Mediterranean dishes. I recommended using it as a leafy salad base or in exotic Mediterranean recipes that call for lettuce, like pitas.
  • greenleaf.jpgGreen Leaf: This lettuce is very aesthetic. It looks more gourmet then Iceberg and fancier then Romaine. Have you ever seen a McDonalds commercial where the sandwiches look amazing? Then, when you order it at your local restaurant, you wonder, “Why don’t they ever serve me a sandwich that looks as appetizing as the ones on TV?” There are three reasons to that phenomenon:
    1. Most of the time, advertisers employ video editing, great lighting, etc.
    2. Videographers sometimes apply inedible additives like varnish (the stuff you put on your furniture) to the product.
    3. Most importantly, they use green leaf lettuce. It makes you wonder, “Why do fast food places give me a sandwich with iceberg when it is advertised with green leaf?” Try it! You will see a huge difference in your sandwiches.

These are the three main types of lettuce. According to Tallyrand’s Culinary Fare, there are about 10 more different varieties. Have an open mind and try the different types that you’re local grocer offers. I, myself, may just try the Butterhead Lettuce. Doesn’t it sound delicious?

Please, feel free to comment on your experiences and suggestions!

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