What is Lettuce?
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a leafy vegetable from the asparagus family. This plant usually has a stem, a head, and leaves. It is a popular vegetable that has become the staple for many and is used in a variety of fresh dishes, particularly in salads.
The most popular varieties of this vegetable are:
- Iceberg (firmly dense head with supple leaves)
- Oak Leaf (round and loose head with soft leaves)
- Arugula or Rocket (dark green and peppery taste)
- Romaine (smooth leaves and loose head)
- Bibb (sweet with extra small leaves)
- Spinach (also refers to as the baby type of this vegetable)
- Radicchio (with purple leaves and a slightly bitter taste)
- Batavia (has all green or slightly red-tainted leaves)
- Belgian Endives (compact head and big leaves)
- Butter (compact head with cupped leaves)
Origin of lettuce
This vegetable originated from the Middle East, mainly Egypt, and can be traced back to 2700 BC. At this time, it is said that the Egyptian God Min (god of fertility) consumed this vegetable as it is a sacred food for fertility. However, the cultivation of this vegetable by people was mainly for oil extraction. The Greek learned to grow this vegetable from Egyptians. In Greece, this vegetable was used for its sedative properties. Later, they introduced the plant to Romans, who passed it down to Western Countries and China, leading to its spread across the globe.
This vegetable has many uses in the kitchen. It is popularly used as a base for salads and wraps. It is also a common ingredient in hamburgers and sandwiches, such as the BLT.
A 100g serving of this vegetable has the following nutritional value:
It offers several health benefits since it contains vitamins A and K which strengthen the bones and increase vision. Furthermore, it has above 95 percent water and improves hydration. Additionally, this vegetable has been considered to have calming and soothing properties on the brain. During the cultivation of this plant, pesticides are often sprayed, and this is harmful to health. It’s recommended to always wash this vegetable before eating it. People who are allergic to it may experience health complications.
The commercial production of this vegetable begins with planting seeds. It is advisable to plant seeds in raised beds around taller plants. This vegetable is planted seasonally because most varieties of this plant mature within 45-50 days. After planting the seed, water it regularly to enhance germination.
This vegetable can easily grow in a home garden. If you intend to grow this vegetable, you have to select a variety that is low maintenance and productive in small spaces. Ensure to check it is free from pests or diseases. To retain this vegetable’s freshness, it should be clean, dry, and stored in the fridge.
This vegetable complements an array of dishes. Some popular recipes are:
- Teriyaki Beef and Lettuce Cups
- Classic Caesar Salad
- Lettuce and Tomato Salad
- Baby Lettuce, Citrus Fruits with Feta Salad
- Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich
The FDA has strict guidelines that regulate the food safety rules and consumption of this vegetable. Since hand-harvested lettuce is widely consumed uncooked, the organization recommends that producers follow their guidelines to prevent the contamination of the plant. These rules include monitoring the water and soil used for the cultivation of the plant.
“Lettuce.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/plant/lettuce.
Ogden Publications, Inc. “The History of Lettuce – Plant Profiles – Heirloom Gardner.” Mother Earth Gardener, www.motherearthgardener.com/plant-profiles/edible/the-history-of-lettuce-zm0z18szphe
“Health Benefits of Lettuce” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-lettuce#1
Danilo, Alfaro “Best Way to Store Lettuce and Keep it Fresh and Crisp” https://www.thespruceeats.com/store-lettuce-for-freshness-996048