- How to Pick the Right Type of Lettuce for Way Better Salads
- Belgian Endive
- Recommended Varieties
- When to Plant
- Spacing & Depth
- Common Problems
- Questions & Answers
- Selection & Storage
- Nutritional Value & Health Benefits
- Preparation & Serving
- Home Preservation
- Different Lettuce Types: Varieties Of Lettuce For The Garden
- Lettuce Types for the Garden
- How lettuce is grown?
- Types of lettuce:
- The chicory family:
- The brassica family:
- Other types of leafy greens:
- Buying & selection
- Wash before eating
- Salad spinner
- Storing lettuce
- Cooking with lettuce
- Nutritional profile per 1 cup serving
- 13 Types of Lettuce—and What to Do With Them
- Butterhead Lettuce
- Dandelion Greens
- 7 Varieties of Lettuce That Will Get You Seriously Excited About Salad
- Lettuce Varieties and Types of Lettuce
- How to Choose & Grow the Best Lettuce
- The Best Lettuces & Greens to Add to Your Salad Bowl
- 15 Great Greens to Add to Your Salad Bowl
- How to Buy the Best Salad Greens
- Washing Salad Greens
- How to Store Salad Greens
- Grow Your Own Lettuces & Salad Greens
- Crunchy, Crisp, Spicy and Spiky: Our 9 Go-To Salad Greens
How to Pick the Right Type of Lettuce for Way Better Salads
What makes a good salad great? We’re answering just that in The Great Salad Shake-Up, a mini-series on everything from the right lettuce for you (it’s out there!) to how to ditch the oil in dressing (yes, you can). BYO salad spinner.
It used to be blasphemous to make a Caesar salad with anything besides romaine, but over the years, we’ve started to take ourselves less seriously. Turns out, the anchovy-laden, garlic-heady dressing is just as good with sturdy kale. And if it’s as good with sturdy kale, why not radicchio? Or Belgian endive?
If you know each lettuce’s personality—its flavor, texture, and commingling ability—you can mix-and-match your salads to no end.
We think this is a very good thing. Which is why we gathered 16 varieties of lettuce and broke them down into a handy guide, so each one can reach its fullest potential.
Also goes by: Italian cress, rocket, roquette, rugula, rucola.
Flavor: Peppery and mustardy, almost like radishes, with a smidge of bitterness.
Texture: More tender than a crunchier option, like romaine, but holds up well when dressed.
Look for: Emerald green color, with no wilted or slimy leaves.
Pairs well with: Creamy cheeses (mozzarella, burrata, goat), cooked grains, boiled potatoes, ripe stone fruit, roasted fall vegetables, toasted nuts.
Avoid: Creamy dressings, like ranch, which would weigh down the leaves.
Fun fact: Thomas Jefferson called arugula a kitchen essential, when writing to his gardener at Monticello.
Also goes by: French endive, witloof.
Flavor: Slightly bitter, but also mild, like celery.
Texture: Crisp, juicy, and snappy.
Look for: Pale-colored, tight-knit heads, with no discolored or wilty outer leaves.
Pairs well with: Citrusy dressings, mashed anchovies, crispy bacon, toasted nuts, crumbled cheese (blue, pecorino, cheddar).
Avoid: Too many mix-ins. Endive is delicate, don’t let it get lost in the crowd.
Fun fact: Grows in total darkness (spooky!) to prevent it from turning too green.
Also goes by: Butter. Notable varieties include bibb (aka limestone) and Boston.
Flavor: Sweet, mild, and yes, buttery.
Texture: Soft and tender, with a laidback waviness.
Look for: Olive-green, tight-knit heads with minimal bruising.
Pairs well with: Classic vinaigrettes, creamy dressings such as ranch, croutons, sweet summer produce (cucumbers, tomatoes), and meaty stir-fries for lettuce wraps.
Avoid: Washing too vigorously or tossing too much.
Fun fact: Its nickname “limestone” refers to Bibb lettuce grown in limestone soil, common in Kentucky and Indiana.
Also goes by: Curly endive.
Flavor: Brightly bitter (and often cooked because of this).
Texture: Curly, ruffly, and chewy.
Look for: Vivid green leaves with a distinct crispness.
Pairs well with: Sweet-tangy fruit (nectarines, cherries, apples), crispy bacon (and its fat), roast chicken, and fatty nuts (walnuts, pecans).
Avoid: Wilted or soggy leaves.
Fun fact: During the American Civil War, Louisianians turned to roasted, ground chicory roots as a way to stretch their coffee, a tradition that carries on today at iconic New Orleans breakfast spots like Café Du Monde.
Also goes by: Batavian endive, broad-leaved endive.
Flavor: Kinda bitter, but milder than its relative chicory.
Texture: Tender but sturdy, and great cooked in soups.
Look for: Broad-shouldered leaves with a soft green hue.
Pairs well with: Anchovy vinaigrettes, creamy-punchy dressings like this garlic one, fresh or dried fruits, toasted nuts, spunky cheeses (feta, blue).
Avoid: Mild-mannered dressings that can’t hold their own.
Fun fact: The name escarole comes by way of the Latin word esca, which means food.
Also goes by: Curly chicory.
Flavor: Subtly bitter and very refreshing.
Texture: Frilly, feathery, and spiky.
Look for: All leaves attached to the core. Color can span white, yellow, and green.
Pairs well with: Thick dressings like blue cheese, crispy pancetta or bacon, extra-juicy produce (tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches), and runny eggs (poached, over-easy).
Avoid: Minimalist preparations with nothing sweet or fatty to cut the bitterness.
Fun fact: Often found in mesclun salad mixes (more on those below).
Also goes by: No known nickname. Let us know in the comments if you’ve heard of one!
Flavor: As mild as it gets.
Texture: Very crisp, very juicy.
Look for: Tight-knit heads, with a green-to-cream color.
Pairs well with: Thick dressings like blue cheese (cut the lettuce into a wedge), sandwiches or tacos (shred into confetti and pile on).
Avoid: Soft heads and soggy or browning leaves.
Fun fact: Called “iceberg” because it used to be covered in ice when transported.
Also goes by: Curly kale. Or, another popular variety, Tuscan kale, lacinato kale, inosaur kale, black kale, or cavolo nero.
Flavor: Hearty, mineraly, and intense, with broccoli-stalk vibes.
Texture: Ruffly, chewy, and sturdy.
Look for: Deeply colored green leaves with snappy stalks.
Pairs well with: Creamy dressings (especially yogurty or cheesy ones), mustardy vinaigrettes, chunky mix-ins.
Avoid: Yellowing leaves.
Fun fact: A member of the cabbage family, kale has been cultivated for over 2,000 years.
Also goes by: Varieties include oak leaf, salad bowl, red leaf, green leaf.
Flavor: Earthy, but not overwhelmingly so.
Texture: Tender, like butterhead, but with more crunch.
Look for: Crisp leaves branching out from a single stalk.
Pairs well with: Simple preparations, either as a bed for another salad (chicken, egg, tuna), or cloaked in a full-flavored vinaigrette.
Avoid: Discolored or unevenly colored leaves.
Fun fact: Or, not so fun: Leaf lettuce goes bad quicker than head lettuce.
Also goes by: Corn salad, field lettuce, lamb’s lettuce.
Flavor: Nutty and sweet, like a soft-spoken spinach.
Texture: Delicate and tender.
Look for: Deep green leaves, compact rosette heads.
Pairs well with: Light and bright vinaigrettes and limited mix-ins. Try piling it atop a grilled or pan-fried protein, like chicken or fish.
Avoid: Keeping it around too long—it perishes quickly.
Fun fact: Mâche has been grown in France since the 17th Century.
Also goes by: Field greens, salad mix, spring mix.
Flavor: Depends! This mix of young tender lettuces can include arugula, chervil, dandelion, frisée, mizuna, oak leaf, mâche, radicchio, and sorrel.
Texture: See above, but mostly tender with some crunch.
Look for: Crisp and perky leaves.
Pairs well with: Simple preparations, either as a bed for another salad (chicken, egg, tuna), or cloaked in a full-flavored vinaigrette.
Avoid: Wilty, soggy leaves (check the bottom of the container to be sure).
Fun fact: The name “mesclun” derives from the Provençal French word mesclumo, or mix.
Also goes by: Radicchio di Verona. (Another, more slender-shaped variety is Radicchio Treviso.)
Flavor: Confidently bitter.
Texture: Tender meets crunchy, like a sterner butterhead.
Look for: Tight-knit heads with pomegranate-red leaves and white ribs.
Pairs well with: Cheese! Any and all kinds. Also, anchovy vinaigrettes, minced boiled eggs, and toasted nuts. Try piling it atop a grilled or pan-fried protein, like chicken or fish.
Avoid: Wilty heads with sagging outer leaves.
Fun fact: Radicchio loves to be roasted and grilled, too.
Also goes by: Cos.
Flavor: Mild but grassy.
Texture: Crunchy and ruffly, with a juicy bite.
Look for: Dark outer leaves, that become progressively lighter toward the center.
Pairs well with: Caesar dressing, of course. But also any creamy dressing and any mix-in (Romaine can handle being tossed).
Avoid: Browning, soggy leaves.
Fun fact: Romaine got its nickname Cos because the variety supposedly hails from the Aegean island of Cos.
Also goes by: Spinnedge and Spynoches, according to the first-known English cookbook The Forme of Cury, published in 1390.
Flavor: Earthy, mineraly, and slightly bitter.
Texture: Tender, thin, and slightly spongy.
Look for: Dark green leaves. Flat-leaf and baby spinach are best for salads.
Pairs well with: Eggs (poached, boiled, over-easy), fruits (diced apples, dried cranberries, sliced apricots), and light vinaigrettes.
Avoid: Soggy, slouchy leaves.
Fun fact: When a dish calls itself “à la Florentine,” it’s usually referring to the inclusion of spinach.
Also goes by: Yellowcress.
Flavor: Peppery and mustardy.
Texture: Tiny, crisp-tender leaves.
Look for: Despite its nickname, the leaves should be dark green, not yellow.
Pairs well with: Ripe avocado, super-sweet fruit (pineapple, peaches, oranges), tangy dairy (goat cheese, labneh).
Avoid: Discoloration or wilting.
Fun fact: As its name suggests, this variety loves to grow in the wild along shallow streams and brooks.
Lettuce is a fairly hardy, cool-weather vegetable that thrives when the average daily temperature is between 60 and 70Â°F. It should be planted in early spring or late summer. At high temperatures, growth is stunted, the leaves may be bitter and the seedstalk forms and elongates rapidly. Some types and varieties of lettuce withstand heat better than others.
There are five distinct types of lettuce: leaf (also called loose-leaf lettuce), Cos or romaine, crisphead, butterhead and stem (also called asparagus lettuce).
Leaf lettuce, the most widely adapted type, produces crisp leaves loosely arranged on the stalk. Nearly every garden has at least a short row of leaf lettuce, making it the most widely planted salad vegetable. Cos or romaine forms an upright, elongated head and is an excellent addition to salads and sandwiches. The butterhead varieties are generally small, loose-heading types that have tender, soft leaves with a delicate sweet flavor. Stem lettuce forms an enlarged seedstalk that is used mainly in stewed, creamed and Chinese dishes.
Crisphead varieties, the iceberg types common at supermarkets all over the country, are adapted to northern conditions and require the most care. In areas without long, cool seasons, they generally are grown from transplants, started early and moved to the garden as soon as the soil can be worked. They are extremely sensitive to heat and must mature before the first hot spell of summer to achieve high-quality heads. If an unseasonably early heat wave hits before they have matured, they almost certainly fail. In many locations, crisphead lettuce plants started in late summer to mature in the cooler weather of fall have a much better chance of success.
Black-seeded Simpson (earliest to harvest)
Grand Rapids (frilly edges; good for coldframes, greenhouse, garden)
Oak Leaf (resistant to tipburn; good for hot weather)
Red Fire (ruffles with red edge; slow to bolt)
Red Sails (slowest bolting red leaf lettuce)
Ruby (darkest red of all; resistant to tipburn)
Cos or Romaine
Cimmaron (unique, dark red leaf, Cos type)
Green Towers (early; dark green, large leaves)
Paris Island (long-standing)
Heading or Crisphead
Great Lakes (standard, holds well in warm weather)
Iceburg (medium, size, tender hearts; leaf edges tinged light brown)
Ithaca (tolerates heat; resists bitterness; slow to bolt)
Stem or Asparagus
When to Plant
Leaf, Cos and Butterhead lettuce can be planted anytime in the spring when the soil is dry enough to rake the surface. Two or more successive plantings at 10 to 14 day intervals provide a continuous supply of lettuce. Lettuce does not withstand hot summer days well and spring planting should be completed at least a month before the really hot days of early summer begin. Plantings started in late summer mature during cool fall weather. Watering is essential for seed germination and establishment of seedlings. Some shade may also benefit summer sowings. Heat-tolerant varieties (mainly loose-leaf types) may be grown in the shade of taller crops through most of the summer if extra care is taken about irrigation and soil selection.
Head lettuce must be transplanted in most locations and requires more care than other types of lettuce. Start transplants for a spring crop indoors or in a cold frame and set them in the garden as early in the spring as the weather settles. Harden transplants outdoors so that they become acclimated to the conditions under which they will be grown, but do not allow growth to stop entirely. Cos, butterhead and leaf varieties also can be transplanted for earlier harvest. In the heat of summer, lettuce seedlings started in a protected location in the shade can be transplanted later into moderate sites for some limited success.
Spacing & Depth
Plant seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep (10 seeds per foot) in single, double or triple rows 12 to 18 inches apart. Thin seedlings to 4 inches apart for leaf lettuce and 6 to 8 inches apart for Cos or Butterhead. The seedlings removed may be transplanted or eaten. Transplant Crisphead seedlings 10 to 12 inches apart in the row.
Because lettuce has shallow roots, it should be hoed or cultivated carefully. Frequent light watering causes the leaves to develop rapidly, resulting in high-quality lettuce. Overwatering, especially in heavy soils, can lead to disease, soft growth and scalding or burning of the leaf margins. Organic mulches can help moderate soil temperature and the microenvironment to produce quality lettuce in less than ideal weather conditions.
Leaf lettuce may be cut whenever it is large enough to use. Cutting every other plant at ground level gives the remaining plants more space for growth. Leaf lettuce reaches maximum size (6 to 12 ounces) in 50 to 60 days. Butterhead varieties form small, loose heads that weigh 4 to 8 ounces at harvest (60 to 70 days). The innermost leaves, that tend to blanch themselves, are a delicacy. Cos varieties have an upright growth habit and form a long, medium-dense head.
To store lettuce, wash, drip dry and place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Lettuce keeps best at 32Â°F and high (96%) humidity.
Aphids â Watch for buildup of colonies of aphids on the undersides of the leaves.
For more information on aphids, see our feature in the Bug Review.
Tipburn is a physiological condition that causes lettuce to “die back” at the edges of the leaves. It results from a change in the moisture relationship between the soil and the plant. Clip off any brown leaf tissue and use the remainder of the leaf. Frequent light watering helps to prevent tipburn. Some varieties are resistant to this condition.
Foliage rots can be a problem, especially in hot or wet seasons. Providing good soil and air drainage for the lettuce bed can help to minimize damage in most years.
Questions & Answers
Q. Why didn’t my lettuce seeds germinate?
A. Failure of seeds to germinate is caused by insufficient moisture or old seed. Lettuce seed does not keep well and it is advisable to obtain new seed each spring. Store seed for fall gardens in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Some lettuce varieties (especially the white-seeded types) have seed that requires light for germination. These types should not be covered with soil but merely pressed into good contact with finely prepared soil. Care then must be taken to keep the seedbed moist, but not soggy, until the seedlings emerge.
Q. Seedstalks have appeared in the center of my lettuce plants. What should I do?
A. The formation of seedstalks is caused by a combination of long days, warm temperatures and age. When seedstalks begin to form, harvest your lettuce immediately and store it in the refrigerator.
Q. My lettuce tastes bitter. What can I do?
A. Lettuce may become bitter during hot weather and when seedstalks begin to form. Wash and store the leaves in the refrigerator for a day or two. Much of the bitterness will disappear.
Selection & Storage
Iceberg lettuce is the most popular lettuce in the United States. It is a head lettuce that is also low in nutritional value and flavor. Because of its superior shipping qualities, iceberg has been most available which accounts for it popularity. The most abundant nutrient in iceberg lettuce is water. Dark green lettuce leaves always indicate higher fiber, flavor and nutritional value.
Lettuce is a cool weather crop. It can be divided into two categories; head lettuce and leaf lettuce.
Growing lettuce in your garden will give you first hand opportunity to taste fresh flavorful leaves which (unlike iceberg) need little or no dressing. Leaf lettuce and romaine provide flavor and crunch and are excellent salad and sandwich selections.
Lettuce leaves should be free of wilt, rot and rust. Harvest crisp green leaves. Wrap fresh, unwashed leaves in plastic warp and store in the refrigerator for a few days if necessary. Cooler temperature will keep lettuce fresh longer. The coolest part of most refrigerators is usually on the first shelf against the rear wall.
Avoid storing lettuce with apples, pears or bananas. These fruits release ethylene gas, a natural ripening agent, that will cause the lettuce to develop brown spots and decay quickly. Toss lettuce that looks slimy or has black spots. The slime is the residue of bacterial decomposition and the black spots are usually mold.
Nutritional Value & Health Benefits
The nutritional value of lettuce varies with the variety. Lettuce in general provides small amounts of dietary fiber, some carbohydrates, a little protein and a trace of fat. Its most important nutrients are vitamin A and potassium. The vitamin A comes from beta carotene, whose yellow-orange is hidden by green chlorophyll pigments. Beta carotene, of course, is converted to vitamin A in the human body. The darker green, the more beta carotene.
According to the American Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, foods rich in vitamin A and C (antioxidants) offer protection against some forms of cancer. Along with other phytochemical, antioxidants reduce the risk of cancer of the respiratory system and intestinal tract.
Lettuce, except iceberg, is also a moderately good source of vitamin C, calcium, iron and copper. The spine and ribs provide dietary fiber, while vitamins and minerals are concentrated in the delicate leaf portion.
Nutrition Facts (One cup raw leaf lettuce, chopped)
Dietary Fiber 1.3
Protein 1 gram
Carbohydrates 1.34 grams
Vitamin A 1456 IU
Vitamin C 13.44
Potassium 162.4 mg
Preparation & Serving
Rinse lettuce just before serving in very cold water. Pat dry with a clean towel. Limp leaves can be revived by immersing in ice water for a few minutes. Tear lettuce leaves into pieces. If practical, do not cut or sliced lettuce leaves in advance. Damaged cut lettuce leaves release an ascorbic acid oxidase, which destroys vitamin C. Cut edges also discolor quickly.
Dry leaves before serving. Salad dressing will cling to dry lettuce leaves instead of sinking to the bottom of the salad bowl. Toss with your favorite dressing just before serving (or serve dressing on the side) Lettuce leaves covered with dressing will quickly wilt.
Due to the extremely high water content, 94.9%, there are no successful method of long-term home preservation for lettuce. Lettuce does not respond well to freezing, canning or drying. For optimal nutritional value, lettuce should be eaten while it is fresh and crisp.
The mild flavor of fresh lettuce leaves are well complimented by fresh or dry herbs. The base of most green salads is lettuce. Two or three lettuce varieties are good for both taste and texture. Mix leaf lettuce (Black-seed Simpson or Oak Leaf) with crisp lettuce (romaine or other crisphead) and accent with fresh herb leaves. The simplest way to appreciate a tossed green salad is with a vinaigrette dressing. Keep it simple. When the dressing becomes too complicated, the mild garden greens can be overpowered.
Mixed Green Salad with Red and Yellow Pepper Vinaigrette
- 4 cups mixed fresh greens (combine a leaf lettuce with crisp varieties) romaine, Boston, with red leaf or Oak Leaf or your favorite lettuce
- 4 tablespoons Red & Yellow pepper vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese or goat cheese (optional)
Wash and dry lettuce leaves. Tear into bite size pieces. Place in an oversized bowl with room for tossing. Place in refrigerator until ready to toss and serve. Can be prepared up to 2 hours in advance. Makes one cup of vinaigrette.
Pour 4 tablespoons of vinaigrette over the greens and toss well with two large forks to coat. Add crumbled cheese, if desired and toss to combine. Serve immediately. Yields 4 one-cup servings.
Red and Yellow Pepper Vinaigrette
- 1 small yellow bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons warm water
- pinch of sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients until combined well. This vinaigrette will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for 3 days. Recipe may be doubled. Makes one cup.
Try these simple vinaigrette recipes with your favorite salad greens.
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (juice of one small orange)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon table salt)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the juices and salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in oils until incorporated. A blender or food processor may also be used. Pour into a glass jar and seal. Serve over your favorite salad greens. The vinaigrette will keep, tightly covered, for a week in the refrigerator. To warm cold vinaigrette, place jar in a bowl of hot tap water for a few minutes.
Mustard Chive Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon grainy Dijon-style mustard
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Using a whisk or fork, in a small bowl combine all ingredients except the oil. Slowly add the oil, whisking vigorously, until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Pour over your favorite salad greens and toss. Store remaining vinaigrette in the refrigerator, in a tightly sealed glass jar, for up to one week. To warm cold vinaigrette, place jar in a small bowl of hot tap water for a few minutes. Makes 1/2 cup.
Listen up, gang: It’s time to get serious about the best kinds of lettuce. This is a list of several types of lettuces, ranked from the best to eat to the grossest and most useless. Are we talking about just for salads here? No bro! This lettuce is for any type of eating, like in a salad or a soup or even to wrap your protein-style cheeseburger at In-N-Out even though you also got fries and are, come on, eating a cheeseburger no matter how you dress it up. What even is lettuce? According to scientists, lettuce is an annual plant in the daisy family. Wow, so is kale even a lettuce? Not really! But it is on this list anyway. So are a bunch of other leafy green vegetables and also a few red / purple ones. To be honest, most of the things on this list probably aren’t even actually lettuce.
Anyway, what is the best kind of lettuce for you? Are some types of lettuces / leafy greens better for you than others? Well, the long and short answer is: no, they are pretty much all the same. Maybe kale has a little more vitamin A than iceberg lettuce, and maybe cabbage is a really good source of manganese, but unless you are an actual alpaca who only eats lettuce all day every day, those trace nutrients & minerals don’t really vary that much. Just be proud of yourself for choosing to eat any vegetable at all, even if it is just for one part of one meal. Now just try not to drown it in ranch dressing.
Vote up your fave lettuces to eat raw or grilled, blend into juices and shakes, make your cellphone wallpaper, blog about, etc.
Different Lettuce Types: Varieties Of Lettuce For The Garden
There are five groups of lettuce categorized by head formation or leaf type. Each of these lettuce varieties offers a unique flavor and texture, and growing different types of lettuce will be a surefire way to generate interest in eating a healthy diet. Let’s learn more about the different lettuce types.
Lettuce Types for the Garden
The five varieties of lettuce that can be grown in the garden include the following:
Crisphead or Iceberg
Crisphead lettuce, more commonly known as iceberg, has a tight head of crisp leaves. Often found in the local salad bar and a virtual staple in the delicious BLT, it’s actually one of the more difficult lettuce varieties to grow. This lettuce variety is not fond of hot summer temps or water stress and may rot from the inside out.
Start iceberg lettuce via seed directly sown 18-24 inches apart or started indoors and then thinned 12-14 inches between heads. Some iceberg lettuce varieties include: Ballade, Crispino, Ithaca, Legacy, Mission, Salinas, Summertime and Sun Devil, all of which mature in 70-80 days.
Summer Crisp, French Crisp or Batavian
Somewhat between the lettuce types Crisphead and Looseleaf, Summer Crisp is a large lettuce variety resistant to bolting with great flavor. It has thick, crisp outer leaves which can be harvested as a looseleaf until the head forms, while the heart is sweet, juicy and a bit nutty.
Different types of lettuce for this variety are: Jack Ice, Oscarde, Reine Des glaces, Anuenue, Loma, Magenta, Nevada and Roger, all of which mature within 55-60 days.
Butterhead, Boston or Bibb
One of the more delicate varieties of lettuce, Butterhead is creamy to light green on the inside and loose, soft and ruffled green on the exterior. These different types of lettuce may be harvested by removing the entire head or just the outside leaves and are easier to grow than the Crispheads, being more tolerant of conditions.
Less likely to bolt and rarely bitter, the Butterhead lettuce varieties mature in about 55-75 days spaced similarly to the Crispheads. These varieties of lettuce include: Blushed Butter Oak, Buttercrunch, Carmona, Divina, Emerald Oak, Flashy Butter Oak, Kweik, Pirat, Sanguine Ameliore, Summer Bib, Tom Thumb, Victoria, and Yugoslavian red and are extremely popular in Europe.
Romaine or Cos
Romaine varieties are typically 8-10 inches tall and upright growing with spoon-shaped, tightly folded leaves and thick ribs. Coloration is medium green on the exterior to greenish white inside with the outer leaves sometimes being tough whilst the interior foliage is tender with wonderful crunch and sweetness.
‘Romaine’ comes from the word Roman while ‘Cos’ is derived from the Greek island of Kos. Some different types of this lettuce are: Brown Golding, Chaos Mix II black, Chaos Mix II white, Devil’s Tongue, Dark Green Romaine, De Morges Braun, Hyper Red Rumple, Little Leprechaun, Mixed Chaos black, Mixed Chaos white, Nova F3, Nova F4 black, Nova F4 white, Paris Island Cos, Valmaine, and Winter Density, all of which mature within around 70 days.
Looseleaf, Leaf, Cutting or Bunching
Last but not least is one of the easiest types of lettuce to grow — the Looseleaf varieties of lettuce, which form no head or heart. Harvest these varieties either whole or by the leaf as they mature. Plant at weekly intervals starting in early April and again mid August. Thin Looseleaf lettuce to 4-6 inches apart. Looseleaf varieties are slow bolting and heat resistant.
A wide variety of colors and shapes guaranteed to stimulate the sight and the palate are available in the following lettuce varieties: Austrian Greenleaf, Bijou, Black Seeded Simpson, Bronze Leaf, Brunia, Cracoviensis, Fine Frilled, Gold Rush, Green Ice, New Red Fire, Oakleaf, Perilla Green, Perilla Red, Merlot, Merveille De Mai,Red Sails, Ruby, Salad Bowl, and Simpson Elite, which will all mature within a 40-45 day time period.
Perhaps the most nutritious and powerful vegetable of all is one that’s easily overlooked: lettuce! Let’s go beyond iceberg and explore the many different types of lettuce and how each one can make a delicious and positive contribution to your next healthy meal or salad bowl.
There are so many varieties of lettuce and greens popping up at the markets and stores, each one more beautiful than the next. If you’re in a little bit of a salad rut, reading about some of these lesser-known lettuces just may tempt you to try something new.
Loosely described, salad greens are any leafy green vegetable that is traditionally used in making a salad. It could be a beet green, a type of watercress, or a classic Boston Bibb.
How lettuce is grown?
Generally speaking, almost all lettuces enjoy cooler weather with lots of moisture and well-drained soil. In mild climates, they can be grown locally year-round, while in areas with four distinct seasons, they grow best in the spring and fall. With modern farming techniques and transportation, though, we’re fortunate to have many different lettuces available to us all year.
Types of lettuce:
Butterhead lettuce is light, airy, and soft with buttery, overlapping leaves that range from pale green to pale yellow-green. They’re sweet and succulent with tongue-shaped leaves. Butter lettuce works well with gentle, vinaigrette based dressings. Popular varieties include Bibb and Boston.
Good old-fashioned iceberg lettuce is by far the most well known of this group, which is known for its tightly-balled heads which are high in water content and pack a powerful crunch that’s low in calories. Head lettuce is great for wraps or making an old school wedge salad with lots of blue cheese.
These varieties grow away from the main base stem in a loose way, as opposed to a tightly balled head, and they tend to have ruffled pliable leaves. Leaf lettuce is tender and broken up into bite-sized leaves for salads and sandwiches. This variety can be harvested leaf by leaf and sown into the ground every week for a continuous supply of greens throughout the growing season.
Also known as French Crisp Lettuce or Batavia Lettuce, it’s a summer tolerant lettuce that’s sweet, crispy, and versatile.
Shaped like an oak leaf, this variety comes in several colors; oak leaf lettuce has tender mild leaves that hold dressing well.
Plentiful in the summer with big crispy spines and broad leaves, varieties of the romaine family of lettuce are easy to cut or tear up for a delicious Caesar salad. Varieties of romaine lettuce can also be grilled. Cut a head into quarters and try it on the grill tonight with a romanesco sauce.
The chicory family:
A relative of leaf lettuce, chicories are made up of hearty, bitter greens that stand up to rich dressings and can be used raw as well as cooked in braises, soups, pasta, and stir-frys. They thrive in cooler months, and some even winter over, because they’re so hearty.
This oblong head has closely packed pale yellow, white satiny leaves. Endive is grown in the dark, to keep its delicate white color. Available year round. Makes a good scoop for dips, seafood salads such as ceviche, and appetizers. Slightly bitter taste.
Although it looks like a small magenta cabbage, radicchio is its own vegetable and prized for its bold color and flavor. It has closely overlapped red and white leaves. Radicchio can be eaten raw with hearty, creamy dressings because of its bitterness, or cooked where it becomes sweeter. Fabulous braised in some red wine and served with a steak.
Also known as curly endive, this frizzy, fun lettuce gives a lot of texture to any salad bowl. In a salade Lyonnaise, poached eggs and chunks of bacon are commonly served on frisée to hold the rich yolk and bacon fat perfectly.
Looks like a larger head of Bibb lettuce because of its pale green color, but stronger in flavor. Bitter, crunchy, and stands up well to braising and Italian soups with beans.
The brassica family:
Super peppery in flavor, arugula, also known as Rocket, is actually a slow growing herb. It can have spiky or rounded leaves that are softly textured. Sprinkle some raw arugula on a pizza fresh out of the oven, or make a pesto with walnuts in place of pine nuts and basil.
Mizuna is a variety of mild Asian greens in the Brassica family with veined, spiked, dark green leaves and a slightly peppery taste. Toss into pasta or a stir-fry just before serving. High in anti-oxidants and vitamin K.
Kale is a member of the cruciferous brassica family that can have a slightly bitter or even peppery bite when raw. There are various types of kale, from dinosaur (aka lacinato) to more tender baby kale, all with various textures, colors, and flavors. One thing for sure is this vegetable superfood is loaded with antioxidants and notably nutrients like fiber, vitamins A, pyridoxine, K and C.
A member of the mustard family, watercress grows in freshwater streams, but can also be cultivated. Its fresh peppery flavor is enjoyed raw, stems and all, or gently cooked. Watercress can be very sandy, so make sure to rinse it well.
Other types of leafy greens:
A very pungent, bold flavored bitter green, dandelion greens pack a nutrient punch that’s high in fiber, too. They can be boiled, braised, or eaten raw in salads if you can handle it! High in vitamins A, C, and K.
Also known as lamb’s lettuce, this lettuce grows in small dark green clusters and has a mild and sweet flavor. Rinse it carefully, because this delicate salad green is often sold with the root system still intact.
Also known as spring mix, this once exotic lettuce mix is now a mainstay at grocery stores everywhere. It’s made up of a wide variety of baby salad greens: bitter, sweet and crunchy. If you’re lucky, sometimes even herbs are sprinkled into this tasty mix, but you can always add your own.
Because it comes in such large amounts, I use up extra mesclun by sautéing a handful or two with olive oil and garlic and serving it on top of pre-made cheese ravioli for a quick satisfying meal.
A sweet little romaine-type lettuce with a sweet little name, this pale green oblong lettuce has a soft crunch and a delicate flavor.
Coming back into the limelight, purslane was often thought of as a noxious weed. What it is, however, is a succulent which is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Purslane has a bright, lemony flavor that can be used interchangeably with spinach, and thick, almost juicy leaves.
High in nutritional value, spinach originated from Persia and is known around the world as a healthy, leafy green vegetable. Spinach comes in many leaf types, from crinkled to smooth, but all are enjoyed by eating raw or cooked in virtually any recipe. Use fresh baby spinach soon after buying for peak nutrition.
Buying & selection
Look for lettuce that is fresh, with un-creased, intact leaves. Pass up any brown or wilted leaves or slimy bases. While some lettuce may have a few outer leaves that are creased or ripped, the insides should be crisp looking and unblemished.
Wash before eating
Unless the greens have been pre-washed, always rinse your salad greens before eating to prevent possible foodborne illness associated with lettuce processing.
If you’d like to incorporate more fresh salads into your diet, it may be time to invest in a salad spinner (Amazon link), which uses a hand crank or button to spin the water out of fresh salad greens quickly and efficiently.
Fill the spinner bowl, or another large salad bowl, or clean sink basin with cold tap water, and add the greens, stirring gently to remove any sand or grit. Lift out and gently shake off excess water. Store the greens in the refrigerator under damp paper towels if using within a few hours.
If storing long term, salad greens need to be kept cool and relatively dry. Crowding, moisture, and heat are the enemies of your salad greens! The best way to store lettuce in the refrigerator is to line a plastic storage continuer with paper towels, place your greens loosely inside, and cover with paper towels before snapping on the lid. Stored this way, greens should last a week or more.
Cooking with lettuce
Hot or cold, lettuce almost never needs a lot of time to prepare, so it’s ideal for hot summers or weeknight eating.
- Lettuce preparation: Once you’ve washed the lettuce you’re going to use, it’s time to make something delicious. Tear by hand or cut your lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Softer lettuces do best when torn by hand, but if you’re using romaine, feel free to chop.
- How to properly dress a salad: When making a dressed salad, use a large bowl so you don’t crowd the lettuce. Also, when using a vinaigrette salad dressing, feel free to toss with your hands to distribute the liquid gently and evenly. And don’t forget to season with salt and pepper. A little salt, when sprinkled from above, can make a good salad spectacular.
Increasing your daily intake of vegetables and plants like lettuce is always a good idea for everyone, but those who are committed to Whole30, Paleo, and low carb diets can also enjoy lettuce greens, because all varieties are characteristically very low in carbs and calories, but high in vitamins, minerals, iron, fiber, and water. Generally speaking, the darker the leaf, the better it is for you.
Nutritional profile per 1 cup serving
The four most common types of green lettuce — green leaf, romaine, butterhead, and iceberg — have 26 to 34 calories in 200 grams, which is about a 1-cup serving of shredded lettuce. They deliver 2 grams of protein or about 4 percent of the recommended daily intake. Green leaf, butterhead, and iceberg have 2 grams of dietary fiber; romaine has 4 grams.
13 Types of Lettuce—and What to Do With Them
If you’ve been to the farmers’ market lately, you know that lettuce is in good supply right now. Many varieties of the leafy green have come into season, making the perfect canvas for a summer salad or a delectable way to increase your produce intake.
The lettuce spectrum, ranging from cool and crisp iceberg lettuce to bitter radicchio and peppery arugula, covers many tastes, shades of green (or red!), and strengths. Here, we break down 13 common varieties and cultivars of lettuce and explore the best ways to use them.
Easy never tasted so awesome.
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Arugula, also known as rocket, is best known for its pungent, peppery taste and rich nutritional profile—it’s loaded with erucin, a cancer-fighting agent, as well as calcium, potassium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K. Arugula is primarily eaten as a salad green, but is also a popular pizza topping.
Recipes to try: Prosciutto-Arugula Pizza, Green Bean, Arugula, and Clementine Toss, Salmon Salad on Arugula.
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Crisp, slightly bitter, and mildly sweet, Belgian endives peak twice a year—once in spring, and again in fall. Raw endives are popular in salads and appetizers, but can also hold their own when braised or grilled. Endive’s closest relatives are escarole, radicchio, and friseé.
Recipes to try: Orange Endive Salad with Chicken Confit, Belgian Endive Salad with Blue Cheese, Pork Medallions with Belgian Endive.
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Butterhead lettuce, also known as Bibb or Boston lettuce, is sweet and tender with loose, almost velvety leaves. The tender leaves are best eaten fresh and are popular in salads. Like other varieties, butterhead lettuce is low in calories; it’s rich in vitamins A and K, potassium, and folate.
Recipes to try: Butter Lettuce and Egg Salad, Squash Blossom, Avocado, and Butter Lettuce Salad, Sweet and Tangy Wings with Butter Lettuce Salad.
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Yep, we’re talking about the same plant that’s taking over your yard. Dandelion greens have a bitter taste that’s not for everyone, but those who enjoy them should try them cooked as well as raw in a salad. Many specialty stores, such as international markets, carry dandelion greens.
Recipes to try: Winter-Greens Turnovers, Dandelion Greens Pesto, Chicken Salad with Roasted Beets and Dandelion Greens.
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Escarole, another cultivated variety of endives, is only slightly bitter compared to its closest relatives. The frilly leaves don’t lose their flavor when cooked, so escarole is a popular addition to soups and pastas.
Recipes to try: Escarole and White Bean Soup, Skillet Chicken with Escarole and Pecorino, Toasted Garlic Escarole.
Friseé is a cultivated variety of endive known for its pleasantly bitter taste and curly-edged leaves. It’s potent, so you only need a little, and you’ll often see it mixed into mesclun greens and other salad blends. Friseé’s popularity has exploded over the last few decades, and you can find it at farmers’ markets and higher-end grocery stores.
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Recipes to try: Open-Faced Egg Sandwich, Morel-and-Asparagus Salad with Friseé and Butter Lettuce, Warm Frisee Salad with Crispy Kosher Salami.
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Iceberg lettuce is one of the most popular varieties around, and a lot of this comes down to texture: While iceberg lettuce doesn’t boast much flavor, it’s got a crispiness that many other greens lack. Thanks to its high water content, iceberg lettuce doesn’t pack many calories, but it’s not particularly high in other nutrients either.
Recipes to try: Blue Iceberg Wedges, Grilled Iceberg Wedge with Warm Bacon Dressing, Iceberg Salad with Ginger Dressing.
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Mache, also known as corn lettuce or rapunzel, is a small and tender variety of lettuce that has soft, dark green leaves. It’s high in vitamin C and is known for its distinct sweet taste. Mache is native to Europe, where it’s popular both raw and cooked.
Recipes to try: A Simple Salad.
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Mesclun’s name derives from mesclom, the Provençal term for “mixture,” and is comprised of various greens such as arugula, endives, and young lettuce. The tender greens are typically used as a salad base and are also referred to as spring mix.
Recipes to try: Mesclun Chicken Soup, Mesclun with Red Grapefruit and Feta, Fresh Spring Rolls with Pork, Mango, and Mesclun.
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Also known as Japanese mustard greens or spider mustard, mizuna has a mildly peppery taste, like a less intense version of arugula. It’s been cultivated in Japan for millennia and is popular in soups, stir-fries, and hot pots. The glossy greens peak from early spring to late summer.
Recipes to try: Pear and Asian Greens Salad, Clam Soup for Tomoko.
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Radicchio, a cultivar of chicory, is best known for its red leaves and spicy, bitter taste. It’s popular in Italian cuisine, where it’s used in salads, grilled, and mixed into pasta dishes.
Recipes to try: Grilled Polenta and Radicchio with Balsamic Drizzle, Radicchio Caesar Salad, Sauéed Radicchio.
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Like iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce features a crisp texture but has a higher nutritional density, making it a favorite in sandwiches and Caesar salads. Romaine lettuce grows narrow heads and has a higher tolerance for heat than other varieties. However, commercial romaine lettuce has been linked to a string of E. coli outbreaks, so exercise caution.
Recipes to try: Romaine, Asparagus, and Watercress Salad with Shrimp, Hearts of Romaine Salad, Bacon-and-Romaine Skewers with Blue Cheese Dressing.
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Watercress gets its name from its semi-aquatic growing nature and is considered both an herb and a green. It has a peppery flavor, can be served fresh or wilted, and is used to liven up soups, sandwiches, and salads.
Recipes to try: Watercress Soup with Toasted Almonds, Steak, Pear, and Watercress Salad, Watercress Canapés.
7 Varieties of Lettuce That Will Get You Seriously Excited About Salad
Lettuce is not usually thought of as a crowd pleaser. Not to knock the old standby iceberg, but it’s given lettuce the reputation of being bland, watery, and more of an afterthought than the star of the show. The truth is, there are many types of lettuce, each with its own flavor, texture, and color.
Lettuce typically grows best in slightly cooler temperatures, meaning that the best local leaves will be found through early summer and then again in late summer/early fall. All salad greens are potent sources of vitamins and minerals, but generally the darker the leaf, the more nutritional value. And, while kale and spinach are truly great additions to your plate, they are not technically lettuces so they are left off this list.
A great way to explore the different types of lettuce is with a trip to your local farmers market. You’ll be exposed to the multitudes of varieties and if you ask, you can usually snag a taste before committing to buying a large quantity. You can also find the varieties below in grocery stores, or even grow your own! No matter how you procure the greens, get ready to punch up your summer dishes with these seven diverse varieties of lettuce and never suffer through another sad side salad again.
RELATED: This Genius Farmer’s Market Tactic Is the Secret to Saving Big—and Finding the Best-Quality Produce
Bright and peppery, bite-sized arugula makes a perfect salad base. This green originated from the Mediterranean and is also commonly referred to as “rocket.” Its tang balances out richer ingredients, making it a great combination with cured meats like prosciutto on a sandwich or pizza.
Great for: Salads, pesto, sandwiches, pizza topper.
This Italian superstar is one of the most visually compelling lettuces around. The vibrant purple leaves of radicchio (pronounced rah-dee-key-oh) are spicy and somewhat bitter, but mellow when taste if grilled or quickly sauteed. Because of its strong flavor, raw radicchio is best served in combination with other greens, like in this kale and radicchio salad, and goes great with a slightly sweet dressing
Best for: Grilling, sauteing, salads.
One of the most popular lettuce varieties, romaine is a good “starter” lettuce for those who are intimidated by the strong flavor profiles of some of the other varieties. Mild tasting but with a strong crunch and hearty texture, Romaine can stand up to any salad ingredient. It’s the staple in most Ceasar salad recipes, and can handle a creamy dressing without going limp.
Great for: Salads of all kinds, grilling.
RELATED: We *Finally* Found the Formula for a Super Satisfying Salad
Butter lettuce is extremely tender and smooth. Its mild taste makes it a perfect complement to delicate salad ingredients such as fresh herbs and mild seafood like shrimp or flaky white fish. Its supple texture means that butter lettuce leaves won’t break or crack when rolled, making them the perfect low-carb base for tacos and lettuce wraps.
Great for: Salads, tortilla or wrap replacement.
A member of the chicory family, Belgian endive is the less bitter cousin of radicchio, with a velvety texture. Shaped like a torpedo, endive leaves make the perfect vehicle for all sorts of fillings, and a perfect party-ready passed appetizer. It’s also hardy enough to stand up to grilling, sauteing, and baking. For a healthy take on comfort food, endive even makes the perfect base for nachos.
Great for: Salads, grilling, roasting.
Oak Leaf Lettuce
You can find oak leaf lettuce in both red and green colored leaves. Named because of their shape similar to the leaves of an oak tree, this variety is tender and mild in flavor. For this reason, it’s commonly found in spring and mesclun mixes, often in baby leaf form. This is one variety that’s too delicate to cook—consume it raw in salads of any type, adding dressing just ahead of serving to prevent wilting or sogginess.
Great for: Salads.
RELATED: 12 Easy Summer Salad Recipes That Use the Season’s Best Ingredients
Bright and bitter, curly frisee is as fun to look at as it is to eat. This edgy green will last a little longer in the fridge than some of the more delicate varieties—up to a week if stored in the crisper drawer with some paper towels to absorb any excess moisture. Tip: local produce tends to last longer since there has been less time from harvest to market. Frisee is great as a salad base cold or warmed, and goes especially well topped with sweet fruit and rich cheese to balance out the bitterness.
Great for: Salads, warmed side dishes, base for cooked proteins.
Lettuce Varieties and Types of Lettuce
© Steve Masley
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‘Red Sails’ (52 days, slow-bolting, resists tipburn) has rouge-tinged green leaves, and resists bolting longer than other leaf lettuces. Doesn’t turn bitter till it forms a flower stalk.
Buy ‘Red Sails’ Seeds (Territorial)
Lettuce © Steve Masley
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‘Blushed Butter Oak’ (55 days) forms loose, open heads of rose-tinged, oak-shaped leaves.
Buy ‘Blushed Butter Oak’ Seeds (Seed Library)
Top of Page | Looseleaf | Butterhead | Romaine (Cos)
Buttercrunch | Batavian | Head Lettuce
Chinese Lettuce | Growing Lettuce
Butterhead Lettuces form loose, open heads of melt-in-your mouth leaves. They thrive in the warm days of fall, and the cool days from spring to early summer.
‘Burgundy Boston’ (Open Pollinated, 50-55 days) forms loose, rose-tinged heads of soft, buttery leaves. One of the best butterhead lettuces we’ve grown.
Buy ‘Burgundy Boston’ Seeds (Seeds Now)
‘Merveille des Quatre Saisons’ (55-60 days)—also called ‘Continuity’ and ‘French Four Seasons’—is one of my favorite butterhead lettuce varieties. A French heirloom, it has green leaves tinged with red or bronze, and the leaves stay tender even when they’re bigger than your hand. Can be grown all year round in mild-winter gardens.
Buy ‘Mervielles’ Seeds (Territorial Seeds)
‘Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed’ (Open Pollinated, 55 days) has pale green crinkled leaves tinged with rose or red (rose colors when grown in partial shade, red in sun). A beautiful, succulent leaf lettuce that’s slow to bolt.
Buy ‘Drunken Woman’ Seeds (Territorial Seeds)
‘Speckles’ (50-55 days) has beautiful green leaves shot with red patches that make a great addition to any salad. It’s a cross between a green butterhead and Forellenschluss romaine, below.
Buy ‘Speckles’ Seeds (Territorial Seeds)
‘Flashy Butter Oak’ (54 days) forms loose, buttery heads of green, oakleaf-shaped leaves that are splashed with red, like ‘Speckles’ above. Slow to bolt and become bitter. A client favorite.
Buy ‘Flashy Butter Oak’ Seeds (Territorial Seeds)
‘Tom Thumb’ (50 days) grows into perfect little domes of soft leaves. Great for growing in pots, window boxes, salad tables, and vegetable container gardens.
Buy ‘Tom Thumb’ Seeds (Seeds Now)
‘Skyphos’ (45-50 days) is one of the most beautiful lettuces we’ve grown. It has pale green leaves near the core, and shades of rose through the middle, deepening to red at the edges.
Buy ‘Skyphos’ Seeds (Johnny’s Seeds)
‘Skyphos’ Red Butterhead
© Steve Masley
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Top of Page | Looseleaf | Butterhead | Romaine (Cos)
Buttercrunch | Batavian | Head Lettuce
Chinese Lettuce | Growing Lettuce
Cos (Romaine) Lettuce
© Steve Masley (Click IMAGE to Enlarge)
Cos (Romaine) Lettuces form open, upright heads of deeply colored leaves. The leaves have stronger flavor than looseleaf varieties, and crunchy midribs
Romaine lettuces have an upright growth habit that makes them more resistant to frost damage than lettuces with a more horizontal leaf growth pattern.
Romaine lettuce is essential for the classic Caesar salad. As long as they get enough water, romaine lettuces can withstand some summer heat.
‘Breen’ (55 days) is a red “baby” romaine that grows 6-8″ high, and is great for salad tables and window boxes.
Buy ‘Breen’ Seeds (Johnny’s Seeds)
‘Jericho’ (57 days) has beautiful, deep-green leaves, and stays sweet even in hot summer weather. Resistant to tip burn and lettuce mosaic virus.
Buy ‘Jericho’ Seeds (Johnny’s Seeds)
‘Flashy Trout Back’ (55 days) is an Austrian heirloom romaine, also known as ‘Forellenschluss’ romaine. It has striking green leaves shot with red patches (similar to ‘Speckles’ butterhead above) and is very tender for a romaine. Beautiful and delicious in any salad. Moderate bolt resistance.
Buy ‘Flashy Trout Back’ Seeds (Territorial Seeds)
Top of Page | Looseleaf | Butterhead | Romaine (Cos)
Buttercrunch | Batavian | Head Lettuce
Chinese Lettuce | Growing Lettuce
© Steve Masley (Click IMAGE to Enlarge)
Buttercrunch Lettuces are crosses between butterhead (bibb) and romaine varieties. They have a more upright structure, so fewer leaves are in contact with the soil when the weather turns cold, wet and dark.
This makes buttercrunch lettuces less subject to the leaf rots that can afflict butterhead lettuces in late fall and winter.
‘Winter Density’ (54 days) is a frost-tolerant bibb-romaine (buttercrunch-style) that has thick, dark-green leaves in a vertical rosette.
Buy ‘Winter Density’ Seeds (Seeds Now)
‘Buttercrunch’ (Open Pollinated, 48 days) forms tight, compact green heads of fan-shaped leaves. Excellent bolt resistance. A good choice for growing lettuce in summer. Buy ‘Buttercrunch’ Seeds (Seeds Now)
Buttercrunch | Batavian | Head Lettuce
Chinese Lettuce | Growing Lettuce
Batavian Lettuces, also known as Summer Crisp Lettuces, have thick, crunchy leaves that hold better in the heat than other varieties. Batavian lettuces are heavier feeders than butterheads, looseleaf, and cos varieties, so boost the organic fertilizers.
‘Nevada’ (48 days) produces heavy yields of crisp green leaves in spring and summer.
Buy ‘Nevada’ Seeds (Johnny’s Seeds)
‘Concept’ (52 days) forms open heads of crisp, succulent leaves, with the texture of a romaine but the shape of a leaf lettuce.
Buy ‘Concept’ Seeds (Johnny’s Seeds)
Buttercrunch | Batavian | Head Lettuce
Chinese Lettuce | Growing Lettuce
Heading Lettuces (Crisphead Lettuces)
Heading Lettuces roll their leaves into tight heads at maturity, like cabbages. These are the standard Iceberg lettuces, prized for their disease resistance and ability to stand against summer heat without turning bitter, and known for their insipid, watery crunch
I don’t know how conventional farmers manage to make them so tasteless—heading lettuces grown organically have flavor, not just crunch.
‘Summertime’ (48 days) has medium-green heads with dark wrapper leaves.
Buy ‘Summertime’ Seeds (Sustainable Seed Company)
‘Red Iceberg’ (50 days) has rouge-tinged leaves that form tight, medium-sized heads.
Buttercrunch | Batavian | Head Lettuce
Chinese Lettuce | Growing Lettuce
Chinese Lettuces are stiff, strong-flavored varieties. They’re grown for their stalks as well as their leaves, and their slight bitterness is muted in stir-fries and soups.
‘Celtuce’ is a celery-flavored variety.
Top of Lettuce Varieties Page | Looseleaf | Butterhead
Romaine (Cos) | Buttercrunch | Batavian | Head Lettuce
Chinese Lettuce | Growing Lettuce | Alphabetical List of Vegetables
How to Choose & Grow the Best Lettuce
Lettuces are roughly classified by leaf shape, configuration, and how much of a head they form. But while there are all these different categories of lettuce, it’s helpful to remember that they are all the same species, which means they can be crossed, so you often find some varieties that don’t fit perfectly into only one category. The aptly named ‘Fusion’ is a classic example in our assortment.
Lettuces are roughly classified by leaf shape, configuration, and how much of a head they form.
Lettuces readily cross with one another, however, and the result is that some lettuces possess features of two or more distinct categories!
HEAD LETTUCE: FULL-SIZE & MINI HEADS
Most varieties of lettuce can be grown as full-size head lettuce, harvested by cutting at the base of the plant, and sold by the unit.
Mini-head lettuces are either standard head lettuce varieties that are planted at close spacing and harvested early, before they are fully mature, or, they are varieties that mature at a naturally small, compact size. In either case, the result is a single-serving sized head lettuce.
Mini-head lettuce can be more profitable for the grower than full-size heads; to learn more about the cost/benefit ratio of the two, read Growing Mini versus Full-Size Head Lettuce: A Look at Differences & the ROI.
Primary head lettuce types include:
- Butterhead: Generally grown to full-size heads, butterhead lettuce has a beautiful ruffled appearance, with a blanched heart and a delicate, sweet, and buttery flavor. “Boston” lettuce is a subtype of butterhead, with varieties that have a lighter green color, softer and smooth textured leaves, and nice big heads. Other butterheads can be darker shades of green, a little more compact, and have blistered/savoy leaves, or can be red butterheads.
- Bibb: Bibb lettuce has a similar appearance, texture, and flavor to butterhead, but it is smaller, and is generally grown for mini-heads.
- Iceberg: Iceberg, also known as crisphead, forms a dense head resembling a cabbage. It offers a fresh, crunchy texture and sweet, mild flavor.
- Lollo: Lollo forms loose heads with very frilly leaves that are often used for garnish. Lollo can also be used for baby leaf production. The leaves are characteristically wide, and can be used for wraps in addition to garnishes.
- Oakleaf: These varieties form attractive, relatively dense, rosette-like heads of curly, crisp leaves that are characteristically deeply lobed and similar in shape to those of oak trees. Primarily grown for baby leaf production; some varieties perform well when grown to full-head size.
‘Auvona’ is an open-heart romaine that differs from traditional romaines in leaf shape, dimension, and ease of preparation.
- Romaine (Cos): Romaine is best known for its compact hearts of long, broad leaves. The outer leaves can also be used as wraps. The flavor is sweet, and the texture is crisp. Some romaines have a more open plant habit than those that form the classic tall, blanched hearts. The open forms do eventually blanch but not as much, and cannot be harvested strictly as hearts. Romaine lettuce does best when provided higher fertility than loose-leaf types require.
- Summer Crisp/Batavia: As the name implies, summer crisp is the ideal choice for summer lettuce. It is relatively tolerant of hot weather and can be grown for either baby leaf or full-size heads. The full heads are heavy and compact. Similarly to romaine, summer crisp grows best with slightly more fertility than loose-leaf types. Summer crisp is also sometimes called French crisp or Batavia.
- Green Leaf/Red Leaf: These include varieties such as ‘New Red Fire’ and ‘Tropicana’. They are commonly found in grocery stores, banded with the foil ties around them. Used for salad, sandwiches, or wraps.
BABY LEAF LETTUCE
Varieties that are best for baby-leaf production have vigorous, uniform growth, thick leaf textures, and upright growth habit.
Essentially any lettuce variety can be grown as a baby leaf by planting the seed at high density and harvesting the leaves very young. The varieties we identify for baby-leaf production, however, are particularly well-suited because of their vigorous, uniform growth and thick leaf textures, as well as for their upright growth habit, making them easier to harvest and cleaner to harvest in the field. These varieties do not produce particularly good full heads if grown to maturity; the heads tend to be loose and lightweight.
Baby leaf lettuce is usually harvested at about 3–4 weeks from seeding. Some baby leaf varieties take up to 5–6 weeks to mature, however, even when spring planted, and definitely when fall planted. To harvest, cut baby leaf lettuce 1–2″ above the ground, using a knife, shears, or a mechanical harvester.
All baby leaf varieties can be used for cut-and-come-again growing systems, meaning they will regrow after the first harvest, but some are a little better than others because they regrow faster and more uniformly, hold their flavor, and hold their size. The quality and quantity of the second cut are typically lower than the first. You will want to seed weekly to ensure a steady supply of baby leaf lettuce throughout the season.
Baby leaf varieties primarily include romaine, summer crisp, and oakleaf types. Johnny’s also carries several lettuce mixes, comprised of multiple varieties that mature at similar rates. These mixes create an appealing assortment of color, texture, and loft. Some growers add herbs, edible flowers, baby brassica greens, baby specialty greens, sprouts or shoots to baby-leaf lettuces to create signature salad mixes; for more information, view our Salad Mix Production Guide.
Salanova, the industry standard one-cut type, excels under a wide range of conditions and cultural settings.
These beautiful Salanova ‘Red Butter’ were grown at Left Field Farm, in Bowdoinham, Maine.
One-cut is an industry term for a type of full-size head lettuce, some of which are best grown for a single harvest and others in a cut-and-come-again fashion. These are recently developed lettuces that go by several trade names, including Eazyleaf, Multileaf, Multi-Cut, and our hands-down favorite, Salanova®.
- Salanova is the industry standard one-cut type for baby-leaf production, and it excels in a variety of cultural settings, from the field to winter tunnels or as a hydroponic lettuce. It is grown to full-head size, but when cut at the plant base, the individual leaves separate, creating a final product similar to baby leaf lettuce. It is more than 40% higher yielding, has better flavor and texture, and double the shelf life, compared to traditional baby leaf lettuce. For more information on the different the different core structures, colors, and leaf types, see our Salanova brochure. For cultural specifics, refer to our Salanova Lettuce Production Guide.
The Best Lettuces & Greens to Add to Your Salad Bowl
Pictured Recipe: Simple Green Salad with Citronette
A big green salad is the little black dress of the culinary world. It suits nearly any occasion, can be simple or sophisticated, dressed up or down. The foundation of most salads is a broad spectrum of lettuces and salad greens-and there is a distinction between the two. Lettuces are a subset of salad greens.
Related: Healthy Salad Recipes
There are three main types of lettuce: crisphead, butterhead and loose-leaf. Crisphead lettuces-such as iceberg and romaine-grow in very tightly clasped round heads. Romaine lettuce grows in elongated heads. Each leaf has a substantial rib running along the center. Loose round rosettes of tender butterhead leaves take well to light dressings, such as a simple shallot-mustard vinaigrette. Mildly flavored loose-leaf lettuces grow in open layers in very loosely formed heads and often have ruffly leaves. Common loose-leaf lettuces are red and green oakleaf.
Salad greens comprise a larger group of leafy vegetables, such as arugula, watercress and the chicories, which also make great additions to your salad bowl. Toss up a mixture of lettuces and salad greens for a more interesting texture and flavor.
15 Great Greens to Add to Your Salad Bowl
The red-tipped leaves of this loose-leaf lettuce are a variant of green-leaf lettuce. They add a spark of color to salads.
The crisp, elongated leaves of this lettuce are the main ingredient in classic Caesar salad.
These beautiful rosette-like heads have soft, buttery-textured leaves. Common varieties include Boston, Bibb, and Buttercrunch.
Created in the 1940s for its ability to travel long distances, this crunchy lettuce is the base for two salads-the chopped salad and the wedge salad-that are now considered cornerstones of American comfort food.
The ruffly, mild-flavor leaves of this loose-leaf lettuce are good for both salads and layering on sandwiches.
These tiny leaves-also called lamb’s lettuce or corn salad-have a nutty flavor and delicate texture.
A quick-growing, peppery salad green that stars in most mesclun mixes. Baby arugula has a more mellow flavor and larger-leafed mature arugula is more intensely spicy.
In the wild, watercress, a vivid green plant with delicate round leaves, grows along running waterways and has fresh, pungent flavor with peppery heat.
The leaves of this common “weed” contribute pleasant bitterness to salads. Some varieties have leaves with smooth edges-others are jagged. Puntarelle, a type of chicory (see page 191), has a similar taste and appearance.
This mix of tender young greens can include leafy lettuces, arugula, frisée, spinach, chard, dandelion, mustard, radicchio and mâche, and soft-stemmed herbs such as parsley, dill and chervil.
Chicories can be loose-leafed or in tight heads, tapered or round, smooth or frilly. Colors range from white to pale yellow to all shades of green to wine red. Their common characteristics are a structural sturdiness and a distinct bitterness that balances the sweeter, more delicate lettuces with which they are often combined. Common types include curly endive, frisée, escarole, Belgian endive and radicchio.
The broad, scoop-shape leaves grow in tightly closed tapered heads. There are both white/pale green and white/red varieties.
Very similar in flavor to broader-leaved curly endive, the fine, frizzy leaves of this chicory add interesting texture to salads.
‘Chioggia’, the most common variety of this intensely flavored chicory, grows in heads of wine-red leaves with bright white veins.
The large outer leaves of these leafy, lettuce-like heads have a hearty flavor and subtle bitterness, while the pale yellow heart is tender, juicy, and faintly bittersweet.
Sometimes simply called “chicory,” this jagged-leafed green adds a structural sturdiness and distinct bitterness that balances the sweeter, more delicate lettuces.
How to Buy the Best Salad Greens
Choose dense, heavy head lettuces with bright color and no browning on the outer leaves.
Choose loose-leaf lettuces that have crisp leaves with no signs of wilting.
Salad greens should have good color with no yellowing, wilting or brown spots.
Washing Salad Greens
Wash and thoroughly dry greens just before use-dressing adheres better to dry greens and extra water dilutes the flavor of the dressing. We like to use a salad spinner: Separate the leaves of head lettuces and loose-leaf lettuces. Add cold water to within 1 inch of the top of the bowl, fill the basket two-thirds full with greens and submerge in the water. Soak greens at least 5 minutes. (Repeat if your greens are particularly dirty or sandy.) Lift out the basket, discard the water and return the basket to the spinner. Cover and spin the greens until dry. Blot any remaining water with a kitchen towel.
How to Store Salad Greens
Store lettuces in a plastic bag in the crisper in the refrigerator. Crisphead and romaine lettuces can be stored up to 1 week. More delicate butterhead and loose-leaf lettuces can be stored up to 5 days. Store loose salad greens in a plastic bag wrapped in a paper towel in the crisper in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
Grow Your Own Lettuces & Salad Greens
Lettuces and salad greens are perhaps the easiest of all vegetables to grow. Picking a beautiful salad from your backyard minutes before a meal is deeply satisfying. Start head lettuces indoors 6 weeks before the last frost date and transplant outdoors 3 weeks before the last frost date. Sow other types of lettuces and salad greens directly in the soil in early spring or fall. Choose a site with loose, well-drained soil, enriched with compost, in sun to part shade. Keep the soil moist, cool and free of weeds. As seedlings grow, thin to 4 to 6 inches apart (eat the young plants as you thin them).
Harvest lettuces and salad greens when they reach the desired size. Cut head lettuces about 1 inch above the lowest leaves. As soon as loose-leaf and romaine lettuces are big enough to spare a few leaves, snap off individual leaves from the outer edges of the head. Baby lettuce blends or mesclun can be cut with scissors about 1 inch above the lowest leaves.
Related: How to Grow Salad Greens in a Container Garden
Crunchy, Crisp, Spicy and Spiky: Our 9 Go-To Salad Greens
We’re never far from a salad craving here at Blue Apron. Whether we’re aiming to highlight seasonal ingredients or balance out a rich meal, a bowl of crisp greens beckons us.
If you’re a salad fiend (or you want to be one), this is your moment to discover our favorite greens, what we love about them, and the salads we adore throwing together. Plus, how to make any salad dressing from scratch.
**9 Common Types of Salad Greens**
Green Leaf or Red Leaf Lettuce
These two lettuces are packed with bright leafy flavor. They arrive in robust heads, and the leaves are never papery. We especially love how all the nooks and crannies of the ruffled leaves hold onto whatever delicious dressing we’ve whipped up. We love tossing green leaf lettuce with seasonal ingredients, as in this Chopped Salad with Sweet Potato, Apple, and Blue Cheese, or using them in place of bread in our Korean Chicken Lettuce Wraps.
Arugula has a peppery bite to its lacy and delicate leaves. That edge makes it a great candidate for the simplest-ever salads–just greens and vinaigrette–and, apparently, irresistible to yuppies in the 1990s. That history aside, we love to pile the greens atop fresh pizza, just as they do in Italy.
Napa cabbage, with its crinkly leaves and elongated shape, has a milder and somewhat sweeter flavor than regular green cabbage and is a nice crunchy change of pace from your regular leafy green. It’s the main event in many Asian salads, a move we borrow in our Chopped Napa Cabbage Salad with Creamy Ginger Lime Dressing.
Bibb, Butter, or Boston Lettuce
This lettuce, which goes by any of the above B-prefaced names, has a buttery yet crisp texture. There’s a nice crunch when you bite in, followed by near melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. We love to pair Bibb/Butter/Boston with more delicate mains, like Shakshouka or Mushroom-Lettuce-Tomato Sandwiches.
Frisee & Chicory
Frisee and chicory are similar greens, both spiky and a little bitter, and, as a result, ultra nutritious. As with escarole, we like to pair these two greens with stronger, heartier ingredients. They may look delicate, but they can stand up to beef, warm goat cheese, and purple potatoes.
Escarole is a hearty green with a bitter flavor whose strong leaves stand up to any number of full-bodied ingredients, like bacon or strong cheeses. We especially adore it combined with warm ingredients, as in this Cannellini Bean & Escarole Salad with Crispy Potatoes; the crispy potatoes wilt the greens, making them even more enjoyable to eat.
The cool crunch of Romaine makes it a favorite for light, summery salads. It’s also the go-to for the traditional Caesar, since it’s a perfect contrast to the creamy, cheesy dressing. We also use the likable lettuce as the base for our Baby Vegetable Nicoise.
No lettuce list would be complete without cool, crunchy iceberg lettuce. Though it lacks the nutritional value of a red leaf or an arugula, we’d argue there’s no better vessel for bacon, chicken, apple, and chives–better known as the Chicken Wedge Salad. Plus, it keeps for a while in the fridge, meaning you’ll always have a vegetable on hand.
Wholesome baby spinach salads were all the rage in the first decade of the 2000s, often topped with everything from sweet fruit to crunchy nuts. Spinach has an earthy attitude and, like escarole, is particularly awesome beneath warm toppings (it almost melts beneath a steak). Anyway, there’s a reason that food trends happen, and this is one we’d like to continue, especially when we pair the green with strawberries, almonds, and a balsamic vinaigrette as in our Flank Steak with Strawberry-Spinach Salad