Available year round, lettuce should be a daily staple, and luckily with so many varieties it’s hard to get bored!
Available year round, lettuce should be a daily staple, and luckily with so many varieties it’s hard to get bored! According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the lettuce we see today, actually started out as a weed around the Mediterranean basin and has been served in dishes for more than 4,500 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. Salad greens are a great source of vitamin C and A and other phytonutrients and antioxidants. Some varieties even contain calcium, folate, and iron and omega-3s.
Here are six 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.
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 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.
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. It is high in folate, fiber, and omega-3s.
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.
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.
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!