Lettuce is an annual plant, a member of a daisy family. It’s most often grown for its leafs but stems and seeds could also be used. It’s commonly used in the US, as a part of salads and healthy mixed greens diet.
It was brought to America by Christopher Columbus in the 15th century. It’s easy to grow and therefore it’s a common place of many gardens as well commercial ventures, with seeds being available for purchase throughout the US.
Baby Lettuce Trivia
- Common belief that lettuce is rabbit food comes from the 1930s
- Ancient Romans believed that lettuce induces sleep.
- Thomas Jefferson had 19 different varieties of lettuce in Monticello.
Baby Lettuce Buying Guide
Lettuce should look fresh and green and feel crisp and firm to the touch. If you see wimp and whitened leafs you should pass on them. If there are yellow and dark sports on the leafs that means, it’s passed their prime and the leafs has been in the store for too long.
Head lettuce should be symmetrically shaped. Avoid overly large heads because they might have too firm and tough leafs that will be hard to make useable.
Baby Lettuce Production & Farming in Texas
At this point as much as 75 percent of the US baby lettuce is produced in California. Texas market is much smaller but it’s still exists and it’s going strong for years with tendency to expanding towards smaller urban farms rather than large production operations.
There are 3 main types of lettuce grown in Texas:
- Fast leaf: This lettuce grows fast and lasts long. It matures in 50 days and comes in green and red, red being more popular with the restaurants and high end chefs. It’s mostly used as a sandwich topic or for salads.
- Butterhead lettuce: The leafs of this lettuce overlap to form a rosette. They have a yellow, buttery look to them. It takes them up 65 days to mature and due to their mild flavor they are mostly used for salads. They are planted in the late spring because they are more damaged by the frost.
- Romaine lettuce: This lettuce is mostly produced by home and amateur gardeners rather than by farmers. That’s because it requires a long time to mature and that’s not profitable for the large scale production. It grows upright and has an elongated head which makes it easy to pick up.
Baby lettuce is most likely of all the green vegetables to contain the pesticides used on it during production, for a long time. That means you need to be extra careful where and from whom you’re buying it. Tests have shown that lettuce contains as much 75 different types of pesticides.
Lettuce was first produced in ancient Egypt but no for salad, rather for the oil from its seeds. It appears in many Greek and medieval writings as a medicine and in the 16th century we have evidence of all three most common modern lettuces being produced as a salad.
Documents from the 19th century show that it was common plant in the American gardens as it is today, with as much as 65 different varieties being known at a time. Now it’s even produced as a subtitle for tobacco in some parts of the country.
When it comes to garden grown lettuce there are now rules as to how it’s packed and it depends on the vendor from which you’re buying. When it comes to the commercially grown lettuce, it first gets cleaned and washed on a packaging table.
It’s then placed in cardboard boxes which is its final packaging. The boxes are palletized and move to the stores, where you can buy baby lettuce without them being cooled for storage, meaning that it needs to be used fast.
Enjoying Baby Lettuces
The most common way to eat lettuce is in a salad, but it’s not the only one and you should feel free to experiment with it. Lettuce needs to be thoroughly washed and cut to size before it’s used in a salad and then it’s just a matter of adding oils and other ingredients you may want to try.
The lettuce is best used when it balances the meal and provides something fresh and crispy to a main course that’s hot and packs more of a punch to it in terms of flavor.
There are also many ways to turn lettuce into juices since it’s mostly water and it’s rather easy to mix with other vegetables in an ordinary home juicer.
Before you store baby lettuce you need to wash it and dry it with great care. Wrap it up in a dry paper towel and place it in plastic bag that you can zip shot. Store the lettuce in the cooler drawer of your fridge and check it from time to time, to replace the towel when it’s wet. It will keep it from getting slimy.
Here are a few recipes for baby lettuce that go beyond a simple salad, because salad is something anyone can make. If you want to be creative with it, and use as much of the vegetable as you can:
- Add crisp and shredded baby lettuce into a bowl of soup. It will soften but it will still retain some of its crunch and add a bit of interest to the meal.
- Use it as a wrap instead of a tortilla. It has much less carbs than bread would have had and it’s still pretty compact and can hold a baked falafel or any other filling a taco would have.
- Try to grill the head of a baby lettuce on a hot pan. You’ll get the smoky flavor and some of the sauce you got from the previous thing you grilled. You could also throw some cheese on top and mix it up a bit. You’ll be surprised with the results.
Most of the lettuce is water and it’s very light on callories but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of healthy nutrients that it packs.
- Vitamin C helps support the immune system, is high in antioxidants, and helps keep bones and teeth strong.
- Calcium is necessary for the building and maintenance of bones, muscle function, nerve function, and blood clotting.
- Vitamin K is also necessary for blood clotting. It works together with calcium to prevent bone mineral loss and fractures due to osteoporosis.
- Vitamin A (from beta carotene) is a vital nutrient, necessary for health. An antioxidant, vitamin A supports cell growth and reproductive health. It also helps to maintain the heart, kidneys, and lungs. Vitamin A also supports the eyes.
- Folate is a B vitamin, which supports cell division, the production of DNA, and genetic material. Folate deficiency in pregnant women can lead to complications with pregnancy, including premature birth, low birth weight, or the birth defect spina bifida.
- Phosphorus works with calcium to build strong bones and teeth.
- Magnesium helps enzymes function and relaxes the muscles in your body. It works with calcium to build tissue.
When Are Baby Lettuce in Season in Texas?
To find out when Baby Lettuce are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.