Lettuce is the name of a salad plant of which there are a number of species and over 100 varieties, the principal ones being the round or ‘cabbage’ lettuce and the long or ‘cos’ lettuce.
Cabbage lettuces have rounded heads and vary in texture from soft to crisp. Cos lettuces have elongated upright heads and crisp leaves. Lettuces are also classified by their growing season and are called ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ lettuces. Summer lettuces are grown in the open in a shady place and in sandy soil. Winter lettuces are grown under glass.
A member of the daisy family, lettuces are thought to have originated in the Middle East and were first introduced to Britain in the sixteenth century. Lettuces consist of 95 per cent water and have little nutritive value, although they do contain some Vitamin C.
Though most often served raw in salads, lettuce is also cooked, braising being the most usual method.
To prepare a lettuce, strip off the outer and damaged leaves. Separate the remaining leaves and wash them well in cold water. Place the leaves in a salad shaker or strainer to drain them.