Lettuce is a part of the daisy family. It’s an annual plant and by far one of the easiest to grow on your own. Europe and North America originally dominated the market for lettuce, but by the late 20th century the consumption of lettuce had spread throughout the world.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Asterales
- Family: Asteraceae
- Tribe: Cichorieae
- Genus: Lactuca
- Species: L. Sativa
- Binomial name: Lactuca sativa
- Lettuce was considered a sacred plant of the reproduction god Min, and it was carried during his festivals and placed near his images. The plant was thought to help the god “perform the sexual act untiringly.
- Lettuce can be cultivated in the ground or in the water (method of cultivation called hydroponics, where plants grow from the nutritious, water solution). Hydroponics are more popular today because this way of cultivation doesn’t depend on the weather conditions (it can be performed all year round).
- Name “Iceberg” originates from the preservation method that was used at the beginning of the 20th century in California. When refrigerators were not available, large quantities of ice were used to prevent spoilage of lettuce in the trains on their trips to the market. Carriages were filled with icebergs that floated on top of the lettuce on their final destinations, hence the name – iceberg lettuce.
Choosing the right lettuce is crucial to impress anyone with a salad. Crunchy, cold, and fresh are the basic expectation of any dish with lettuce. To ensure this, be sure to pick ones that have dark green outer leaves that are intact. Avoid any large heads of romaine which may be tough, fibrous leaves.
Iceberg lettuce should be firm and compact yet springy. But not too hard as that can mean the head has overmatured and gone bitter.
Production & Farming in Texas
Lettuce typically lives 65-130 days from planting a seed to harvesting. They are growing in cool temperatures to prevent flowering of any sort. Flowering would mean the plant has matured making it bitter and tough. Lettuce grows best in full sun in loose, nitrogen-rich soils with a pH of between 6.0 and 6.8. Heat generally prompts lettuce to bolt, with most varieties growing poorly above 24 °C (75 °F); cool temperatures prompt better performance, with 16 to 18 °C (61 to 64 °F) being preferred and as low as 7 °C (45 °F) being tolerated. There are three main types of lettuce, leaf, head and cos or romaine are the most common
In 2017 the world produced around 27 million tonnes of lettuce. Including chicory. China alone produced a whopping 56% of that, producing over 15 million tonnes. The US came second at 3.8 million, wheres Spain still hold the top spot for lettuce exports.
Lettuce emerges as a big problem when tested for harmful pesticides. Some studies show that after testing, more than 20% of residue was left behind on the product lining supermarket shelves. A staggering 11 different pesticides. some of the residues discovered include some of the most dangerous pesticides: DDT, a probable carcinogen. These don’t include herbicides or any growth enhancers such as chlormequat – a growth regulator used to swell fruit. All these with a mix of fungicides such as iprodione can potentially be a fatal mixture.
Lettuce is native to the Mediterranean and Siberia, although it has by now been transported all over the world, with few places that don’t commercially mass produce or sell it.
In 2017, almost all the lettuce produced was grown in either California(71%) or Arizona(29%). Making head lettuce value at over $9000 dollars an acre, and leaf lettuce $8000.
In most first-world markets a head of lettuce would come wrapped in some form of plastic. Today you can get it pre-chopped and processed to the point where all you have to do is throw it onto a plate.
Lettuce only has a short lifespan after being harvested. Lasting 10 days at most in perfect conditions. This is risky however because if stored improperly it can be a breeding ground for harmful food-bourn pathogens like listeria monocytes and Ecol i. Despite this, however, a 2008 study found zero incidences of food-borne illness relating to lettuce. This is probably due to the short lifespan of lettuce.
To get the most out of your lettuce, spin it dry after washing then place it in a container with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. If you don’t have a container and zip lock bag with a slight opening to ensure airflow will do.
Most often you’d see lettuce in a salad, sandwich or wrap. The possibilities go much farther as they extend into poaching, grilling and even in soups. This isn’t the case for all countries, unfortunately.
Lettuce in china developed far differently due to health risk and cultural aversion to eating raw leaves. In China, salads were made from cooked vegetables served either hot or cold.
Lettuce is an excellent source of vitamin K and A and a moderate source of minerals like folate and iron. Contaminated lettuce is often a source of bacterial, viral and parasitic outbreaks. In humans especially.
When Are Lettuce in Season in Texas?
To find out when 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.