Quicklist: Types of Lettuce Greens
- Belgian Endive
- Collard Greens
- Chrysanthemum Greens
- Dandelion Greens
- Lambs’ Lettuce
- Oak Leaf Lettuce
- Bok Choi
- Little Gem
- Swiss Chard
Where Does Lettuce Come From?
Lettuce, also known as Lactuca sativa, is undoubtedly the world’s most popular salad plant. Its origin dates back to the ancient Middle East.
The fresh, green plant that features a thick stem and milky sap used to have sexual connotations in ancient times. This is the reason why the god of fertility, Min, consumed lettuce as a holy food for improving his sexual drive.
Initially, lettuce grew wild and was bitter in taste. The Egyptians started growing their own lettuce which had separate leaves rather than heads. Plus, they were tall and erect in shape. They not only consumed the leafy lettuce but they also utilized its seeds for medicines and mummification.
The knowledge regarding the benefits of lettuce and how this useful plant can be cultivated in one’s own garden passed down to the Greeks and Romans. Both made the most of the medicinal properties of lettuce.
Households consumed lettuce prior to meals. They believed that doing so would help stimulate their digestion and improve sleep quality. Fresh and delicate leaves were served in salads while the tough, slightly bitter ones were cooked before they were served with oil and vinegar.
From Rome, this seasonal vegetable traveled to China during the fifth century. The Chinese developed a liking for the thick, luscious leaves and in no time, lettuce was being used as a fundamental food ingredient. By the beginning of the 15th century, Europe, Asia and Africa had all been introduced to loose-headed lettuces.
Different types of lettuce
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Also known as ‘Rocket’ in the U.K., arugula has dark green leaves that have a peppery taste. arugula often comes in a long, spiky shape but it is also common to come across shorter and more rounded plants.
Arugula works well when mixed with tangy flavors like lemon, garlic, or vinegar, and strong flavors like blue cheese.
2. Belgian Endive
While this type of lettuce features tight, compact heads, it is full of crunch and flavor. This is why endive is a must-have ingredient in salads; one bite of it and you will take endless pleasure in its solid crunch and twist.
Mind you, Belgian endive is a tad bit bitter so make sure that you combine it with other greens or tasty flavors to tone down its bold flavor.
This prized lettuce is mild, crispy and tender. butterhead gets its name from the smooth texture.
The loose “heads” have cupped leaves and a sweet and succulent flavor that helps intensify salad dressing. Besides salads, Butterheads are also delicious in pasta, burgers and sandwiches.
There is a reason why kale is famed as “the queen of greens”. And that’s because of the fact that the dark green leafy lettuce is a nutritional powerhouse. While the leaves of kale are normal and delicate, they can do wonders for your health.
From aiding in digestion to eliminating inflammation from your body to providing cardiovascular support, kale is an essential vegetable. It is packed with iron, calcium, powerful antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, and K.
Belonging to the family Amaranthaceae, spinach is an edible plant that is native to central and western Asia. Considered a superfood, spinach is a nutrient-rich vegetable loaded with carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, iron and calcium.
The high nutritional profile of spinach makes it one of the best greens for bones, skin, hai, and nails. The addition of spinach in your daily diet will help manage diabetes, lower your blood pressure, prevent cancer and asthma, and promote proper digestion.
Loose-leafed greens, aka collard greens, belong to the Acephala cultivar. Greek for ‘without a head’, this group also includes broccoli, kale, turnips and cabbage.
Collard greens are popular in many parts of the world but especially in the southern U.S. They come with thick, inedible stems that need to be cut before you use them for cooking purposes.
7. Chrysanthemum Greens
Whether you steam them or boil them, chrysanthemum greens always maintain their herby flavor. They are a great addition to salads, sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, and all kinds of soups.
It is ideal to cook chrysanthemum greens for only 30 seconds. Any longer and the lettuce turns mushy and slimy.
The Japanese love to pair chrysanthemum greens with a saucy, sesame dressing — a unique dish that gives a punch of flavor of both nuts and vegetables.
8. Dandelion Greens
Dandelion greens are eaten both raw and cooked. Raw they have a sharp, bitter taste while cooked they can be combined with other sweet ingredients to balance out the overall flavor.
These greens are rich in iron, calcium, proteins and minerals. What’s more, they are loaded with antioxidants that facilitate the absorption of iron.
Frisée (pronounced as “free-zay”) is a variety of endive lettuce. Often referred to as curly endive, frisée boasts yellow to pale green leaves. Like most types of lettuce, frisée is commonly used in salads, specifically sweet dressings that give its bitter flavor the right balance.
Growing your own frisée is quite easy if you can spare five feet of your garden space for it. This will be enough for a row of frisée to rise, yielding up to seven heads. For a summer harvest, make sure to plant frisée in spring and again, in the fall season for winter produce.
10. Lambs’ Lettuce
Lambs’ lettuce, also known as mache or corn salad, comes with a lovely appearance and texture. Corn salads are always available in groups of five or six at the roots. As compared to other types of lettuce, mache has more body and combines well with many other vegetables.
Its delicate texture requires additional care while cleaning. Otherwise, the vegetable can snap into pieces. Chefs and home cooks, all over the world, prefer to use lambs’ lettuce with sherry and minced shallot vinaigrette as it helps bring out the real flavor of this veggie.
Watercress (botanical name – Nasturtium officinale) is an overlooked variety of lettuce that provides numerous health benefits. Like many other types of lettuce the aquatic flowering plant is packed with nutrients, such as calcium, fiber and vitamins A, C and K.
Research shows that watercress contains certain compounds that lower the risk of developing breast cancer. The beneficial nutrients are great for one’s heart’s health as it is full of antioxidants like carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
This superstar green goes by many names – Japanese mustard greens, spider mustard, water greens, and Kyona.
Mizuna is a type of mustard green that shares ties with the members of the Brassica family such as cauliflower, broccoli, mustard, turnip and rutabaga. You can find this highly-nutritious veggie in a variety of forms.
Mizuna is often combined with other greens to enhance the overall flavor. Traditionally, it serves as a great topping for pizzas, pasta, soups and stews.
13. Oak Leaf Lettuce
As with mizuna, oak leaf lettuce is available in many varieties; each variety comes in a different color ranging from green to red to bronze. What they all share is loose leaves that are attached together at the base.
This versatile lettuce works well with all kinds of dressings and is a must-have veggie in salads. The leaves of oak leaf lettuce can grow in many sizes.
Full of flavor oak leaf lettuce can be cultivated throughout the year.
This herbaceous vegetable may prove to be more beneficial than fish. How? Research shows that purslane consists of more omega-3 fatty acids than fish.
The daily consumption of dark-green leaves will provide you with many other health benefits. Purslane is a great source of vitamin A, C, and B-complex like riboflavin, pyridoxine and niacin. It is also full of minerals like potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium.
Romaine is also known as Cos lettuce. It is believed that this variety was first harvested on the Greek Island of Cos.
This flowering plant only takes 70 to 75 days to mature and isn’t difficult to maintain.
A staple in North American cuisines, tatsoi is an Asian variety of Brassica rapa. tatsoi is a Mandarin term that means “Chinese flat cabbage”.
The glossy, emerald greens are a rich source of folate, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K. This culinary ingredient is also quite versatile and can be eaten raw, sautéed, braised or steamed.
17. Bok Choi
Often referred to as white cabbage, bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage that comes in a variety of shapes, colors, sizes and tastes.
The Chinese have been cultivating this delectable veggie for over 5,000 years.
Radicchio is a staple in Italian cooking which explains why this red beauty is often called ‘Italian chicory.’ The red cabbage is packed with great flavors and a chewy texture. You can also enjoy it in plenty of ways either by adding it in salads, pasta, soups or stews, or grilling it on a smoker.
Escarole is a type of lettuce and a member of the chicory family. This leafy green vegetable is quite delicious and has been cultivated in the United Kingdom for hundreds of years. Colonists introduced escarole when settling in the United States.
Escarole tastes slightly bitter. However, escarole’s broad leaves are quite versatile, which is why it is used in many types of recipes. Escarole, like most lettuce, is a low-calorie food that is high in fiber and Vitamins A and C.
It is rich in antioxidants and promotes weight loss while boosting immune and digestive functions. In addition, there are also small amounts of iron, calcium and Vitamin K in every serving.
Iceberg is a type of lettuce best known for its crispy texture and mild taste. Iceberg, with its round head and pale green leaves, looks like cabbage and other lettuce varieties.
Iceberg lettuce is also a versatile lettuce type that is considered a traditional staple when making salads, sandwiches, wraps, or as a topping on a hamburger. Iceberg helps maintain strong bones and eye health, although some argue its nutritional value is the lowest among lettuce types.
Because it is low in carbohydrates, iceberg promotes weight loss and improves digestion. Iceberg lettuce is an excellent substitute for buns and wraps to help lower the carb content of your favorite recipes.
21. Little Gem
Little Gem is a type of green lettuce that resembles baby-sized romaine lettuce. Little Gem is a member of the sunflower family. It was developed from a lineage of romaine and butterhead lettuce types.
Its leaves are a vibrant green and, when full-grown, do not exceed five inches in length, about half that of traditional romaine lettuce.
“One of the very best-tasting lettuces. A superb heat tolerant variety.”
The heart of the Little Gem is a crisp and sweet center, although the rest of the lettuce is mild and never bitter.
22. Celtuce or Stem Letuce
Celtuce (which is sometimes known as stem tettuce) is a type of green leafy vegetable that has been used for decades in Chinese cuisine and recipes. Stem lettuce is unusual because the stem is what is most often coveted, while the leaves are generally wilted when purchased in a grocery store.
Celtuce is a low-calorie food but packs a punch with a fantastic array of minerals and vitamins in a serving. These include magnesium, iron, phosphorus, calcium, Vitamin B and C, and potassium, to name a few.
The stem of celtuce is quite versatile. It has a characteristic white-green outer layer. Celtuce is often prepared to be served as a main or side dish or even a meal topper. Interestingly, raw or cooked — stem lettuce maintains its crunch against heat or intense marinades.
23. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is a type of lettuce that is a member of the Amaranthaceae plant family. Swiss chard was discovered in the 1700s by a Swiss botanist but is native to the Mediterranean region.
Swiss chard is available in a wide variety of colors that include yellow, deep green, orange, red, purple, and even multicolored. Swiss chard’s vibrant, thick leaves have long stems that resemble a celery stalk.
Swiss chard offers great nutritional benefits that include heart health, diabetes prevention, the ability to fight cancer, and the maintenance of strong bones. Like most types of food, the nutritional profile of Swiss chard will vary depending on whether it is eaten raw or cooked.
Tango lettuce, which is a curly leaf-type of lettuce, looks a bit like Endive lettuce. It can grow up to eight inches tall and twelve inches wide. Tango lettuce has green leaves with frilled edges as they grow and is considered ideal as the base of many salads.
“Tango is a darker green than most varieties and is vitamin-rich.”
The stalks of tango lettuce range from tender to crisp and are often a bit tangy in taste. The crisp textures hold up very well to salad dressings of all types. With its unusual look, Tango lettuce makes a festive addition to cheese and meat trays as well as sandwiches.
Best Types of Lettuce for Various Recipes
Best Lettuce for Wraps
Lettuce plays an important role in wraps. It provides a crunchy texture and a fresh flavor that can help to offset the richness of other ingredients, like mayonnaise or avocado. For these reasons, crisp lettuce like iceberg or romaine is a good choice. You can also try softer lettuce like Boston or Bibb.
Best Lettuce for Salads
For salads, you’ll want lettuce with more flavor and nutrition. Nutrient-rich dark leafy greens like arugula, spinach, or kale are a good option.
Or you could try something slightly sweeter, like butter lettuce or endive. Many people choose to mix different lettuce types to get a variety of flavors and textures. The most common include romaine, iceberg, arugula and spinach.
Best Lettuce for Burgers
For this classic combination, iceberg lettuce is a good choice because it has a mild flavor that won’t overpower the other ingredients. Iceberg also has a crisp texture that can hold up to the juicy burger and all the toppings.
Another option is romaine lettuce — it has a slightly more robust flavor than iceberg, which can be an excellent complement to a burger.
Best Lettuce for Sandwiches
For sandwiches, you’ll want lettuce with a delicate flavor that won’t compete with the other ingredients. You can try mixing it up with different lettuce types, but avoid using anything too bitter or pungent that can ruin the sandwich’s flavor.
Butter lettuce, Boston lettuce, or even radicchio are all good choices. These lettuce types also have a softer texture, which can make them more suitable to eat in a sandwich.
Best Lettuce for Taco Salad
With taco salad, you’ll want lettuce with a bit more crunch. Iceberg or romaine lettuce both work well. And since they’re both reasonably neutral in flavor, they won’t interfere with the other ingredients in the salad.
Best Lettuce for Caesar Salad
For Caesar salad, you’ll want lettuce with a bit more texture and crunch. Romaine lettuce is a good option because it has a hearty texture that can stand up to the other ingredients in the salad.
And since it’s a bit more bitter than other lettuce types, it can help to balance out the sweetness of the dressing. Another possibility is iceberg lettuce. It’s very crisp and has a mild flavor that won’t interfere with the other ingredients.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is lettuce good for you?
Yes, lettuce is good for you! Lettuce is a low-calorie food rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, folate, and potassium. Lettuce also contains fiber, which can help digestion and promote a feeling of fullness.
Is lettuce a vegetable?
Lettuce is a vegetable. The green leafy veggie is a member of the Asteraceae family, including chicory, endive, and radicchio. For a treat, mix different lettuces in a salad!
How is lettuce grown?
Lettuces need a lot of water and prefer cooler temperatures. They usually grow lettuce in fields or greenhouses using hydroponic methods. The seeds are germinated in soil or water and then transferred to the growing medium.
Can you freeze lettuce?
Only if you’re cooking it. Boil the lettuce for two minutes, then allow it to cool before freezing it in an airtight container. Freezing lettuce causes it to turn brown and wilt.
When to harvest lettuce?
You can harvest lettuce when the leaves are big enough to eat. Cut the outer leaves first for baby greens and allow the plant to keep growing. Wait until the plant forms a tight head for full-sized lettuce heads. You can plant lettuce multiple times a year for a continual harvest.
When to plant lettuce?
You can plant lettuce in the spring or fall. Lettuce is a cool-weather crop and does not do well in the heat. The ideal temperature for lettuce is between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
How does lettuce grow?
Lettuce grows best in rich, well-drained soil. The plants need full sun for six to eight hours a day. Lettuce is a shallow-rooted plant, so it doesn’t need much space. You can sow the seeds directly in the garden or start them indoors.
How long is lettuce good for?
Lettuce is best when eaten fresh, but it can last up to a week in the refrigerator. Store it in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer. Soak the leaves in cold water for a few minutes if the leaves are wilted.
Why does lettuce turn red?
Lettuce can turn red due to stress, such as heat or cold. The condition is called “red leaf” and is harmless. The red color is because of anthocyanins, antioxidants that can have health benefits.
Does lettuce make you sleepy?
Lettuce contains a chemical called lactucarium, which has sedative effects. Lettuce also contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid converted into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep.
Where does lettuce come from?
Lettuce is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean region. It was first cultivated by the ancient Egyptians and then spread to other parts of the world.
Does lettuce have protein?
Yes, lettuce contains protein. Lettuce is not an excellent source of protein compared to other foods, but it includes some. One cup of chopped iceberg lettuce has about 2 grams of protein.
Can you cook lettuce?
Yes, you can cook lettuce. Some people prefer to eat raw, but you can boil or steam it. The best types of lettuce to cook are romaine and endive. Lettuce is often used in stir-fries.
Which lettuce is the healthiest?
There are many types of lettuce, and they all have different nutritional values. Some healthiest lettuces include arugula, romaine, spinach, and kale. These greens are low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals.
How much water is in lettuce?
Lettuce is about 95% water. The high water content makes the lettuce crisp and refreshing.
How much lettuce is a serving?
A serving of lettuce is about 2 cups or one medium head of iceberg lettuce.
Can lettuce be grown indoors?
Yes, you can grow lettuce indoors. Place the plants near a sunny window or under grow lights. Lettuce needs full sun for six to eight hours a day. Lettuce is a shallow-rooted plant, so it doesn’t need much space.
What lettuce is in spring mix?
Spring mix usually contains a variety of lettuces, including arugula, endive, frisée, and radicchio. The mixture can also have other greens, such as spinach and kale.
What to do with wilted lettuce?
If your lettuce is wilted, you can revive it by soaking the leaves in cold water for a few minutes. You can also add lemon juice or vinegar to the water. But if the leaves are brown or mushy, it’s best to throw them out.
Will lettuce regrow after cutting?
Lettuce will not regrow after cutting, but you can grow new plants from the seeds. Lettuce is a cool-weather crop so you can plant it in the spring or fall. Sow the seeds directly in the garden or start them indoors.
Is lettuce ok after the expiration date?
If the lettuce is wilted or has brown or mushy leaves, it’s best to throw it out. Otherwise, it should be fine to eat. Lettuce is a cool-weather crop so you can plant it in the spring or fall. Sow the seeds directly in the garden or start them indoors.