LETTUCE was first cultivated in about 4500 B. C. and is believed to be native to the Mediterranean. Today, the most popular cold vegetable in the U.S., lettuce grows in hundreds of varieties throughout the world. There are four main types of lettuce grown in this country. Crisphead, or iceberg, was renamed in the 1920s when it was transported under mounds of ice. Butterhead, named for its tender texture, includes Boston and Bibb varieties. Romaine, or Cos, is an oblong, dark, and crunchy lettuce best known for its place in Caesar salads. Finally, Leaf, such as Greenleaf or Red leaf lettuce grows with leaves that branch from a single stalk in a loose bunch rather than a tight head.
Storage: Refrigerate washed-and-dried greens in a bag in the refrigerator drawer or right in your salad spinner. Iceberg lettuce will last for up to 2 weeks, romaine for about to days, and butterhead and leaf will last for 4-5 days if stored this way.
Preparation: Rinse lettuce in very cold water just before serving. Pat dry with a clean towel or spin dry with a salad spinner. Drying helps salad dressing cling to the leaves rather than sink to the bottom of the salad bowl. Revive limp leaves by immersing in ice water for a few minutes. Add lettuce to sandwiches for extra flavor and crunch. Mix different types of lettuce to add a variety of color and texture. Be creative! Add raw, steamed or sauteed vegetables, pasta, or tofu to a bowl of lettuce. Make a salad meatier by adding a whole grain like brown rice or different beans such as kidney, garbanzo, fava, or another favorite.