How can I thank you, little green leaf?
You give me something
tasty and nutritious
These are the first few lines of a poem entitled, “About Lettuce,” attesting to the poet’s love for the green leafy vegetable. Like the verses’ writer, many people love the crisp, mild, refreshing taste of lettuce. It has long been a very popular ingredient in salads and sandwiches and, recently, in green smoothies.
Because the lettuce can be found everywhere the whole year round, it is easy to regard it as common food. However, there are certain details about the lettuce that can prove that it is not just another vegetable in the fresh produce section of the supermarket.
- According to historical documents, lettuce was already cultivated in Ancient Egypt as far back as 6,000 years ago. In fact, the lettuce is portrayed in several Egyptian hieroglyphs and artwork. From the Middle East, lettuce cultivation spread to Europe and other parts of the world. Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus, introduced the lettuce to America during his second voyage to the New World in 1494.
- “Lettuce” is a modern derivative of the term, “lactuca,” which was what the ancient Greeks and Romans called the vegetable in the past.
- China is the world’s largest producer of lettuce. Almost 50% of the lettuce being consumed today is grown by the Chinese.
- In the United States, the potato is the only fresh vegetable that is more popular than the lettuce. According to statistics from the USDA, the per capita consumption of lettuce in America is 33 pounds per year.
- There are dozens of lettuce varieties but these can be categorized into four main types: butterhead, crisphead, looseleaf and romaine.
- Lettuce is always eaten fresh. Because of its high water content (95%), it cannot be frozen or canned.
- The lettuce that the Greeks and Romans ate in ancient times had sleep-inducing properties. This property, however, has already been bred out of the current varieties of lettuce.
- If you want to maximize the health benefits from eating lettuce, choose leaves that are darker in color as these contain more nutrients.
- Lettuce is extremely low-calorie and perfect as a weight-loss food. A cup of raw lettuce has less than 10 calories.
- When storing lettuce, it should be kept away from fruits that emit ethylene, such as apples and bananas. Ethylene is a gas that hastens the ripening process of certain fruits and will cause lettuce to decay much faster.