Dietribes: Lettuce Rejoice!

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Described as a "weedy Cinderella" by some and a "queen of a salad plants" by others, it is nevertheless the most common salad vegetable and somehow part of my daily consumption. Let us learn more about this leafy green:

"¢ A primitive, but edible, ancestor of the lettuce plant has been enjoyed as far back as ancient Egypt. Lettuce has only continued to gain popularity even since. In fact, consumption is at an all-time high, which is good news for these guys (I think).

"¢ From the History of Food, "Modern types of lettuce include iceberg and Batavia (more popular in Europe). Romaine lettuce has long leaves in a loaf-shaped head. Butterhead lettuce is quite small with oily, soft textured leaves. Red and green lead lettuces form no head and have leaves with a variety of shapes."

"¢ Iceberg lettuce was first introduced in 1894 by W. Atlee Burpee Seed Co. Because of its firm ball shape it shipped well, and got its nickname from the way it was shipped on crushed ice (of course). Apparently, this variety can also make for a tasty and comforting snack, which may account for the 22 lbs of iceberg lettuce Americans eat on average per year.

"¢ Strangely, you can also consume what's known as Sea Lettuce "“ a type of algae that looks like romaine and has a spicy taste. Just cut it from a rock or catch it as it floats by ... although you should probably stay clear of polluted waters.

lettuceman.jpghead-of-lettuce.jpg

"¢ If you love lettuce, consider it as a Halloween costume. You can dress up for fun or effect, just don't let it go to your head.

Here is a Peruvian inmate dressed up for Environment Day. Is this how they deal with litterers and polluters?

"¢ Of course, not everyone believes lettuce to be a tasty and benign substance - the Yazidis, an Iraqi sect, maintain a fierce prohibition against eating lettuce after a series of unfortunate lettuce-related incidents in their past.

"¢ Lettuce does include the same vitamins and minerals as other greens, but in less quantity. Still, its high water and fiber content make it a healthy choice. Lettuce also has high amounts of antioxidants, which help prevent cancer.

"¢ Extracts from lettuce have been used in folk remedies as a sedative and sleep inducer, and in some cases, as a treatment for coughs, nervousness, tension and pain. Dry leaves can also be used for tabacco-less cigarettes, although its health effects are unknown. An extremely versatile plant, lettuce can also be used to thwart criminals.

Any interesting lettuce stories to tell? Has anyone tried growing it themselves? Please share!

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

"˜Dietribes' appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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August 20, 2008 - 8:46am
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