In the United States alone, Americans consume more than 25 pounds of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) annually. That may be hard to believe but given all the varieties, leaf, butter, romaine, and iceberg to name a few, this seemingly tall task is actually quite the easy feat.
Originally, the Mesopotamians, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Egyptians, and Chinese considered lettuce to be a delicacy and grew lettuce simply for the oil derived from the seed. With a wide assortment of hypothetical uses, the oil ranged from appetite stimulant to a sleep aid, and can still be found to this day for those purposes.
The versions of lettuce we see today have not always looked or tasted as it does today. Having come from wild, stemmy varieties, lettuce took centuries to master the shape, flavor, and strength to fight disease. Today, lettuce comes in four main varieties that shoppers can find at local grocery stores: leaf (red/green), butter, romaine, and iceberg. For the lettuce production in the U.S., Arizona and California hold the top spots, with New Jersey as an additional significant contributor during its punctuated growing season.
You may be able to guess that romaine earned its name from the city where it had the most popularity…Rome. But what might not be known is how iceberg secured its name. In the 1900s, with refrigeration not quite up to today’s standards, this lettuce was shipped in ice-filled containers to help preserve the shelf-life of the leafy greens. So, then, the name “iceberg” came naturally and is still used to this day!
The most common way for lettuce to be consumed is through a traditional plated salad, but it can also be used for juicing, soup, wraps, and topped like a cracker. Because lettuce is over 90% water, it is a great way to get extra hydration in your diet, just like reading our monthly market report is a great way to stay up to date on your favorite commodities and produce items. Stay tuned for more great information next month!