Lettuce: The Salad Staple

Articles
August 03, 2011

Lettuce: The Salad Staple

There are so many varieties of lettuce; spice up your salad with some of SupermarketGuru’s favorite picks ... perfect for summer!

Available year round but especially delicious in summer, lettuce should be a daily staple, and luckily there are so many varieties it’s hard to get bored!

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the lettuce we see today, actually started out as a weed around the Mediterranean basin. Served in dishes for more than 4500 years, lettuce has even made its mark in history, with tomb painting in Egypt where scholars have identified different types of lettuces. Christopher Columbus is thought to have introduced lettuce to the new world, and now many of us can’t think of life without it.

Eating lettuce has many benefits; most greens are a great source of vitamin C as well as vitamin A and other phytochemicals and antioxidants. Some varieties of lettuce even contain calcium, folate, as well as iron and omega-3s.

Here are some nutritious picks:

Arugula (aka rocket or roquette)
Arugula used to be hard find, but is now very popular. It has small, flat leaves with long stems, and a peppery taste. It is usually paired with other varieties to balance out the taste.

Dandelion Greens
Used for years for medicinal purposes, dandelion greens are packed with inulin which keeps your gastrointestinal tract healthy, by promoting the growth of good bacteria.
Look for leaves that are smaller, and slightly curled because they will have a less bitter taste.

Mizuna
Mizuna is one of the mildest mustard greens, and can usually be found in mesclun mixes. It is known to contain powerful glucosinolates, antioxidants linked to decreased cancer risk, Mizuna has been cultivated in Japan for thousands of years and has an exotic, slightly spicy flavor. Shopping tip: look for crisp green leaves that are not wilted.

Mâche
This lettuce is tender with a sweet, nutty flavor and can be sautéed as a side dish. Mâche was brought to the states about 20 years ago from France. Mâche is high in folate, fiber, and omega-3s.

Raddicchio
Similar in appearance to red cabbage, radicchio is actually a member of the chicory family. This leaf is typically used for an accent in salads because of its steep cost as most radicchio lettuce comes from Italy.

Watercress
Another member of the mustard family, watercress can be found growing around streams. Watercress has small, crisp, dark green leaves and has a pungent, slightly bitter flavor as well as a peppery snap. Smart shopping: choose crisp leaves with deep, vibrant color. It is also a great source of vitamin K.

Purslane
This lettuce type is considered a weed to many farmers, but packs a huge nutritional punch. It tastes slightly lemony and is juicy and crisp as well as a great source of omega-3s. Store purslane with stems in cold water in the refrigerator to maximize shelf life and freshness.

How to store lettuce? 
Lettuce tends to keep well in plastic bags in the crisper section of the refrigerator. Bagged lettuce and more delicate greens don't last long so purchase only as much as you will use within a day or two. Fresher lettuce contains more vitamins, so eat up!