Baby Gourmet Lettuces
The cultivation of lettuce can be traced back as far as 4500 B.C. at which time it was mostly grown for the oil of its seeds. It has been well established that the Persians consumed lettuce leaves around the year 600 B.C..
The word "lettuce" comes from the Latin latuca which is derived from lactus, meaning "milk"; it was so named for the milky sap secreted by the stems when they are cut. Lettuce is an annual plant that comes in about 100 varieties. The crisp, tender leaves are usually green but may also be red; they vary in shape and favor, depending on the variety. The most common varieties sold today are head lettuce, butterhead lettuce, leaf lettuce, romaine (also known as cos) lettuce, and celtuce.
Lettuce is rich in water and low in calories. Most varieties are rich in folic acid, although the vitamin and mineral content can differ from one variety to another.
As a general rule, the greener the lettuce, the more vitamins and mineral it contains. Lettuce is said to stimulate the appetite and to have analgesic, emollient and sedative properties.
Lettuce is usually eaten raw, but it may also be cooked. Raw, it is most commonly topped with dressing or mayonnaise and served in salads or added to sandwiches. To enhance the appearance, flavor, and nutritional value of salad, try combining several different types of lettuce.
Lettuce is often braised or used to flavor soups. Add the shredded leaves at the end of cooking; the heat from the broth will cook them sufficiently.
Discard the outermost leaves of the lettuce. Head lettuce purchased in markets often retains chemical pesticide or herbicide residue.