Lettuce

Originally from the Mediterranean region, lettuce has always been a popular vegetable. 

There are many lettuce varieties, with availability changing often. 'Head' lettuces - firm, tightly packed heads with a central core or heart and crisp leaves. Leafy lettuces - some have a small heart, such as buttercrunch, some do not and their leaves can be picked individually. Leafy lettuce has a soft texture and loose leaves. Other greens - such as endive, frisee and salad greens.

Varieties of lettuce

p lettuce icebergIceberg

This is sometimes called normal, crisphead or standard lettuce. The heads are firm and tightly packed with a central core or heart. The leaves are crunchy and have a mild flavour. The outer leaves are a darker green; the central leaves are pale green. The leaves are cupped, hold their shape and can be used to hold fillings. Frillice is a similar lettuce variety; it is characterised by its deep green colour and leaves that are very frilled at the edges.

p lettuce cosbergCosberg

A cross between iceberg and a cos lettuce, it has boat-shaped leaves and the taste of iceberg with a hint of Christmas green peas. Its crunchy texture is suited to salads. This lettuce holds its shape when heated making it possible to serve the cupped leaves filled with hot foods. They are also a good wrapping leaf.

p lettuce buttercrunchButterhead or buttercrunch

This is a green lettuce with loose leaves. It has a soft texture and flat smooth succulent leaves which have a delicate buttery feel and flavour. Some varieties have heart-shaped leaves while others are more rounded. Red buttercrunch or red butterhead are also available.

p lettuce redoakRed oak and green oak

These are loose leaf sweet-tasting lettuces and have no heart. They have a soft green-red or red leaf which can be picked separately as these lettuces are often sold with intact roots.

p lettuce greencoralGreen coral and red coral

These lettuces have attractive crinkly leaves that stand up on a plate. They have a sharp, slightly bitter flavour. The depth of red or green colour depends on the variety and the season. The leaves can be picked separately as these lettuces are often sold with intact roots.

p lettuce cosCos

This is a winter lettuce also known as romaine. It has an elongated head with coarse leaves that are crunchy and sharp in flavour. This lettuce is a key ingredient of Caesar salad.

Baby cos varieties are sometimes available.

p lettuce endiveEndive

Endive is often classed as a lettuce but is from the celery family. There are two main types, curly endive and fine leaf. It is sometimes called frisee. The leaves have a slightly bitter flavour.

Lamb's lettuce (corn salad, mache)

Lamb's lettuce is very succulent with a delicate flavour and smoothly textured green leaves. 

Besides lettuce there is a vast array of other leaves, often loosely termed ‘salad greens’. See salad greens.

What to look for

Choose lettuces with clean, crisp leaves.

Availability

All year.

Store

Refrigerate in plastic bags or store in the crisper. Avoid squashing the lettuce. Alternatively, if the lettuce roots are still attached, stand the lettuce in a jar with the roots in water, and do not refrigerate.

Ways to eat

Lettuce is used raw in salads, sandwiches and rolls. Use several varieties of lettuce together to increase interest. Lettuce leaves may also be used as wraps. Older leaves can be used in soups.

Nutrition

LETTUCE - Hydroponic varieties
Raw
Nutrition Information
Serving size:  ½ cup torn - 18g
  Average
Quantity
per serving 
% Daily
intake per
serve 
Average
Quantity
per 100g 
 
Energy (kJ/Cal) 16/4 0.2% 89/22  
Protein (g) 0.3 0.7% 1.9  
Fat, total (g) 0.05 0% 0.3  
 - saturated (g) trace 0% 0.1  
Carbohydrate (g) 0.3 0.1% 1.8  
 - sugars (g) 0.3 0.3% 1.7  
Dietary fibre (g) 0.3 1% 1.7  
Sodium (mg) 2 0% 13  
Folate (µg) 10 5% RDI* 55  
Vitamin A Equiv. (µg) 16 2% RDI* 89  
Iron (mg) 0.18 1% RDI* 1  

Percentage Daily Intakes are based on an average adult diet of 8700 kJ 
Your daily Intakes may be higher or lower depending on your energy needs. 
*Recommended Dietary Intake (Average Adult)

Source: The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables, 10th Edition, Plant & Food Research - 2014

While lettuce contains mainly water (95%) this is an advantage in providing hydration and as a low energy food. Darker leafy lettuces provide a range of nutrients including smaller contributions of vitamin C, iron and folate. 

Some of the newer varieties such as red oak and butter crunch are more strongly coloured than the traditional varieties (iceberg), and the pigments (phytonutrients) that give them the colour have a range of potential health benefits.  Most lettuce contains the pigments beta-carotene and lutein while the red coloured lettuces get their colour from anthocyanins.

Retailing

Lettuces are highly perishable, therefore buy small quantities regularly and maintain good stock rotation principles. Use hydroponic systems or refrigerated shelving for display. Loose lettuce mixes are becoming very popular. For non-hydroponic lettuces, trim stems and wash before displaying on shelf, and display with stem facing upward. Keep display moist. Use the QR code on labels.

Store at 2-5°C with a relative humidity of 95%. The optimum storage temperature is 0°C, but because of the risk of the product freezing a slightly higher temperature is recommended. Lettuces are ethylene sensitive so store separately from ethylene producing fruits and vegetables.

Purchase lettuces with the New Zealand GAP logo.

Recipes

Fruity watercress and chicken salad
Fruity watercress and chicken salad

The peppery taste of the watercress in this recipe goes well with the sweetness of the fruit. View Recipe

Novelty sandwiches using vegetables
Novelty sandwiches using vegetables

Different shapes, catchy names and unusual presentation add variety to a sandwich platter. View Recipe

Boats
Boats

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Images

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