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Let Them Eat Lettuce

Top, toss or grill, there are more types of lettuce than you may realize. Each with their own taste, texture and nutritional value, here’s a snapshot of the choices and attributes.

Jenna Bell, PhD, RD

SVP of Nutritional Science for Sensei Ag

The annual consumption of all types of lettuce is about 25.8 pounds per person, of which 51 percent (13.3 pounds per person) is head lettuce. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in dollar bills, the head lettuce industry is a $1.9 billion market. While the numbers are impressive, we’re more thrilled by the varieties, uses and nutritional value of lettuce.


Lettuce Roots
Among the ~1000 known species of vegetables in the world, lives Lactuca sativa (A.K.A., lettuce). It is believed that it was named lactuca from the root “lactis” (milk) because of its milky white sap prevalent across thick stems and veining of lettuce plants, especially those less tender, heirloom varieties.

There are five main types of lettuce: leaf (also called loose-leaf lettuce), Cos or Romaine, Crisphead, butterhead and stem (also called asparagus lettuce). Within each type of lettuce there are numerous varieties with an array of tastes, textures, uses and health-promoting plant compounds and essential vitamins and minerals. Here is a quick guide:


Leaf Lettuce
Tender and delicate, these leaves stem from a single stalk rather than a head of lettuce. (This makes them more fragile so the fewer miles traveled, the better.)

Flavor: Pleasantly mild, always bright, and never bitter.

Quick tip: Leaf lettuce can be included in a variety of recipes thanks to its mild flavor. Sensitive to heat, use these in your next salad or atop sandwiches and burgers.


Cos or Romaine
Sometimes called Cos, Romaine grows in a long head of sturdy green or red leaves with a firm rib down the center. The long leaves make for great chopped salads, sandwich toppers and can be a tortilla-like wrap. This versatile option is great chilled and unlike most lettuces, romaine is tolerance of heat so it can be grilled.

Flavor: Mild to creamy.

Quick tip: Romaine has never met a Caesar salad it didn’t like but this robust option is great grilled and stands up to sautéing too.


Crisphead
Sometimes referred to as French Crisp, Batavian and Sensei Farm’s unique, Crystal. This leafy, ruffled green falls somewhere between leaf and head lettuce. The outer leaves are firm, thick and flavorful while inner leaves (the heart) are crisp and sweet.

Flavor: Deep, bright, never bitter

Quick tip: Top sandwich sandwiches and burgers. It performs well in combination with both acidic and hot ingredients retaining their texture and crunch.


Butterhead
You know this variety as Boston, bibb or buttercrunch. These options arrive in small, loosely formed heads with soft leaves. Ranging in size, Boston is a fluffier, larger variety while Bibb is a smaller, more densely formed choice.

Flavor: Mild to slightly bitter with a buttery taste

Quick tip: The perfect buttery leaf base for your next gluten-free taco or chopped chicken cup.

Stem Lettuce
Stem lettuce is the less-known lettuce. It’s also referred to as Celtuce, asparagus or celery lettuce and is quite popular in Chinese kitchens.

Flavor: crisp, mild, and a little nutty.

Quick tip: Use in a stir-fry or pickle it!

 

Lettuce Adjacent – Arugula
Sometimes called Italian Cress or rocket, Arugula is technically a member of the mustard family. But take such pride in this cultivar’s punchy flavor and nutrients that we simply had to include it.

Flavor: Packed with a peppery bite and Sensei Farms’ arugula has a hint of wasabi.

Quick tip: The star of a chopped salad, vinaigrette dressed arugula shines alongside fish, or try it as a pizza topping to boost the pie’s flavor and nutrients.

 

Health Creds

Variety of flavors, variety of uses. When it comes to nutritional value, there are several key nutrients in lettuce:

 

It’s a Wrap

The proof is in the pudding. Or the salad? The salsa? Gazpacho? For more “proof”, visit our
recipe section.