Lettuce was first cultivated in Egypt where it was probably selectively bred to produce large edible leaves. It spread from Egypt into Greece and Italy, then throughout the Roman Empire. There are several types of lettuce, but the three most common are Leaf, Head, and Cos (Romaine).
How much does lettuce weigh?
|Lettuce, Butterhead, Boston, and Bib
|Cup, Shredded or Chopped
|Lettuce, Cos or Romaine
|Lettuce, Green Leaf
|Lettuce, Red Leaf
Conversion from grams to ounce: 28.3495231g(rounded to 28.35)= 1 oz
What You Need to Know about the Lettuce
You may be seeing this leafy vegetable in your favorite burgers and salads for many years already, but how much do you know about the lettuce? You may be interested to know that the lettuce is actually a member of the sunflower (Asteraceae) family. This vegetable has also been famed in ancient history as a religious symbol for fertility.
Continue reading this article to learn more about the interesting history of the lettuce and its popular uses today.
The lettuce (Lactuca sativa) originated in the Middle East and was first cultivated in Ancient Egypt over 6,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptians considered the lettuce as an aphrodisiac and associated the vegetable with their god of fertility, Min. They even hailed the vegetable as a sacred sex symbol. Aside from its religious significance, the Egyptians used the oil of wild lettuce seeds for cooking, medicine, and mummification process.
The Ancient Greeks learned how to grow lettuce from the Ancient Egyptians and passed this knowledge to the Ancient Romans. In Greece and Rome, the vegetable was used medicinally as a sedative, appetizer, and sleep aid. It is believed that Caesar Augustus loved the lettuce too much that he made a statue of it.
The lettuce spread throughout Western Europe and eastern countries throughout China through Roman invasion. When Christopher Columbus returned to America in the late 15th century, he brought lettuce seeds with him to plant. It was only in the 1600s that lettuce began being widely cultivated in the United States when John Winthrop Jr., then governor of the Connecticut colony, brought lettuce seeds from England.
Where the Lettuce is Grown
The lettuce likes cool weather and grows best during spring and fall seasons in many countries. It needs a nitrogen-rich soil that has a pH-level between 6.0 and 6.8. It can be planted in-ground, in garden beds, and in containers.
For many years, China has been the largest producer of lettuce in the world, followed by the United States and India.
The lettuce is known to be an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A (good for the eyes), vitamin K (good for healing wounds), beta-carotene, folate (good for DNA production), iron (good for blood production), calcium (good for the bones), phosphorous (good for the bones), magnesium (good for enzyme production), and potassium (good for muscle movement).
According to FoodData Central, a cup of shredded Romaine lettuce may contain:
- Calories 8
- Carbohydrates 1.5 g
- Fiber 1 g
- Protein 0.6 g
- Total fat 0.1 g
Many varieties of the lettuce were developed when it reached the Western Europe. Here are the most common so far:
- Arugula. This variety originated from the Mediterranean. Its leaves look similar to an oakleaf lettuce but it tastes earthy and tart. It is best used in bold-flavored salads, pasta, or spread.
- Bibb Lettuce. The second type of butterhead lettuce, this expensive variety is both small and sweet. Both Boston and Bibb lettuce are best for cooking ground chicken and shrimp and preparing delicate salads.
- Boston Lettuce. This is one of the two types of the soft butterhead lettuce variety that has a round and loosely formed heads.
- Coral Lettuce. This variety can appear bright green, deep red, or speckled. Its sturdy and crispy leaves have a mild flavor. It is best used for sandwich or burger lettuce.
- Cress. The cress variety often grows in sandy ground and has a peppery taste. Its bold flavor makes it best for salads, noodle dishes, or spring
- Endive. Endive is actually a chicory but this oval-shaped variety with a slightly bitter taste is perfect for any salad.
- Escarole. This chicory has a mildly bitter leaf and is used in salads and soups. Paired with beans, it is popular in Italian cuisine.
- Frisée. This variety has curled, slightly bitter leaves. Closely related to the escarole, the frisée is best eaten raw or slightly warmed.
- Iceberg Lettuce. This variety looks like a cabbage because its pale green leaves are tightly packed. Originally called “crisphead lettuce”, it is the least nutritious and least flavorful of all lettuce varieties. It is watery and refreshing and is famous for its use ins salads, tacos, and fried fish sandwiches.
- Leaf Lettuce. This variety has crisper leaves that branch out from a single stalk unlike other varieties. Leaf lettuce is further divided into three: red leaf (mild flavor), green leaf (also with mild flavor), and oak leaf (spicy and nutty flavors).
- Little Gem Lettuce. This variety looks similar to the romaine lettuce but with crisp and sweet leaves. It is best used for salads, sandwiches, and wraps.
- Looseleaf Lettuce. This variety has a crunchy and mild-flavored stem and is a great addition to any salad. It can also be used to prepare soup and make lettuce wraps.
- Mâche. Also known as field lettuce, this variety gives a mild and slightly sweet flavor to any special occasion salad.
- Mesclun. This is sometimes called baby mixed lettuce because it is a loose mix of tender baby lettuce leaves.
- Radicchio. A type of chicory, this deep-red-purple variety has a bitter taste which become sweet when cooked.
- Romaine Lettuce. This variety – grown by the Romans – has a loaf shape and dark outer leaves. It has a crisp texture and its leaves taste slightly bitter.
- Speckled Lettuce. This variety is named so because of its speckled leaves. It is also used for preparing salads.
- Stem Lettuce. This variety is known for its stalk which tastes like cucumber when peeled. Its leaves can also be eaten just like the other lettuce varieties.
Popular Uses of the Lettuce
The lettuce is popularly used in various cuisines even during the ancient times. Today, it is widely used for the following dishes:
- Salads. The lettuce is crispy and light which makes it perfect for any salad, including the famous Caesar’s salad.
- Soup. Shredded lettuce can be used to add sweet flavor to a bowl of soup. The varieties commonly used for this purpose are arugula, spinach, and other varieties with darker green color.
- Juice. The lettuce is composed of lots of water which makes it great for mixing juice blends or smoothies.
- Lettuce Wraps. Instead of traditional wraps like lavash or bread, the lettuce can be used as a perfect wrap for Asian fillings and tacos.
- Rice and noodle bowls. Chopped lettuce can be a good addition to your rice or noodle bowl for variety.