Fresh Lettuce Varieties

From the Cooking Light Garden: Fall's sweet, crispy, leafy greens.

Eat Your Leafy Greens

Photo: Cedric Angeles

Eat Your Leafy Greens

When cooler weather hits the garden, lettuce starts to thrive. For master gardener Mary Beth Shaddix and our Cooking Light Garden in Alabama, the fall crop means a bounty of gorgeous leafy greens, something that Shaddix has recently come to relish.

"I didn't really eat fresh salads until I grew my own," Shaddix says. "I thought salad greens lacked flavor. But when you grow your own, you can really explore the varieties—some have soft, buttery texture; others are crisp-crunchy. And they all have real taste."

Shaddix grew interesting varieties of three main lettuce types: romaine, butterhead, and loose leaf. The first two are typically harvested as whole heads, while loose leaf can be harvested sporadically, from the outside of the plant inward. We put them all to use here in ways that showcase their fantastic textures and fresh, lightly mineral flavors.

Watch: How to Store Lettuce

Winter Density Lettuce

Photo: Randy Mayor

Winter Density Lettuce

This Bibb-romaine blend is tender yet crisp, hearty, and substantial enough to stand up to dressings like a warm bacon vinaigrette.

Black-Seeded Simpson Lettuce

Photo: Randy Mayor

Black-Seeded Simpson Lettuce

Seeds for this tender, sweet leaf lettuce look like black sesame seeds. The greens hold up well to heat: a good choice for warmer climates.

Red Rosie

Photo: Randy Mayor

Red Rosie Lettuce

As a deep red-tinted romaine lettuce, it makes for great visual contrast in salads. Try mixing it with chopped green romaine in a Caesar.

Lollo Rossa Lettuce

Photo: Randy Mayor

Lollo Rossa Lettuce

One of the most colorful varieties we grew, this loose leaf lettuce runs from wine red to hot pink and lime green. It's hardy enough to grow late into the fall.

Rosalita Lettuce

Photo: Randy Mayor

Rosalita Lettuce

A red-tipped leaf that's a little more tender than other varieties of romaine, it adds great textural contrast in salads and works well as a wrap.

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