With fresh lettuce around, you'll always have an easy and healthy side dish at the ready.
Full Heads or Mixed Greens?
Full heads of lettuce are the best option for keeping down costs, especially if you eat a lot of salad. But for extra convenience, you might try the salad mixes that come in bags or plastic "clamshell" boxes.
The Three Main Types of Lettuce
Iceberg: The classic. Stores well, but doesn't have as much nutritional value as other lettuces.
Romaine: A big leafy lettuce that's the star of Caesar salad.
Red/Green Leaf: Thin and gentle lettuce, often slightly bitter. Doesn't store well.
When to Find the Freshest Lettuce
Fresh local lettuce will be available in the spring, but fresh lettuce of decent quality is available year-round. throughout the year. You may even be able to find "living lettuce" which is sold with its roots still intact. Doesn't get fresher than that.
How to Choose Lettuce at the Store
Whether you're buying full heads or a bagged mix, look for crisp, green leaves. Avoid if the leaves show any browning.
How to Store Lettuce
Iceberg and Romaine lettuce will store for a week or so in your crisper, but other more gentle leaves should be used as soon as possible. Lettuce that comes in a box or bag can keep for a week as well, but make sure you reseal tightly after using!
How to Prepare Lettuce
Tear the leaves off and wash them well. Dry them as thoroughly as you can. This will be easiest if you invest in a salad spinner, but you can also toss the leaves with paper towels or clean dish towels.
How to Chop Lettuce
Don't! Chopping will bruise the sensitive leaves. Tear the leaves into pieces instead.
How to Grow Lettuce
Lettuce grows well in small spaces. Gardeners often start lettuce indoors, then plant as soon after the last frost that the soil can be worked. Lettuce needs rich, well-drained soil and full sun. Ask the friendly folks at your local garden store for information about growing lettuce in your area.