Lettuce is the best known and most universally used of all salad herbs. It is available in a variety of shapes, textures and colors. One of the most attractive and is the “Lollo” above with its pretty frilled, red leaves.
Lettuce leaves not only form the primary ingredient for delicious and varied salads, but also form the basis for beautiful food presentations and garnishes.
There are six main Culivar groups of lettuce:
- Butterhead, also called Boston or Bibb, forms loose heads; it has a buttery texture. Butterhead cultivars are most popular in Europe.
- Chinese lettuce types generally have long, sword-shaped, non-head-forming leaves, with a bitter and robust flavour unlike Western types, appropriate for use in stir-fried dishes and stews. Chinese lettuce cultivars are divided into “stem-use” types, and “leaf-use” types such as.
- Crisphead, also called Iceberg, which form tight, dense heads that resemble cabbage. They are generally the mildest of the lettuces, valued more for their crunchy texture than for flavour. Cultivars of iceberg lettuce are the most familiar lettuces in the USA. The name Iceberg comes from the way the lettuce was transported in the US starting in the 1920s on train-wagons covered in crushed ice, making them look like icebergs.
- Looseleaf, with tender, delicate, and mildly flavoured leaves. This group comprises oak leaf and lollo rosso lettuces.
- Romaine, also called Cos, is a head-forming type with elongated leaves.
- Summer Crisp, also called Batavian, which form moderately dense heads with a crunchy texture; this type is intermediate between iceberg and looseleaf types.