When selecting lettuce at the supermarket, you always want to choose darker greens over lighter colored ones. The darker the leaf, the higher the nutrient content. Here’s a quick tutorial of the different lettuce varieties out there to help you select the best lettuce for your next salad!
- Romaine – romaine lettuce has large, crisp leaves that provide a crunchy texture sharp flavor making it the perfect selection for Caesar salads. It has a decent shelf life in the refrigerator and can be found in both green (the more common) and red varieties. (photo source)
- Arugula – arugula lettuce has a peppery, pungent flavor that goes great with milder greens as a contrast flavor. At some health food stores you can find arugula sold on its own, but it is usually found in pre-made spring mixes. (photo source)
- Radicchio – radicchio has a beautiful purple color with a bitter, peppery flavor when eaten alone but goes well mixed in with milder greens. (photo source)
- Watercress – watercress is a peppery green that goes great in salads, sandwiches, and in soups. It also makes a great garnish for any meal. Watercress is highly perishable so it is recommended that you use it as soon as you buy it. (photo source)
- Butter – Butter lettuce (or butterhead lettuce) consists of both Bibb and Boston lettuces. These lettuces have soft tender loose leaves that can be used in salads, on sandwiches, or as a bed for other dishes. Bibb lettuce tends to be smaller, more flavorful, and more expensive than Boston lettuce. (photo source)
- Leaf lettuce – leaf lettuce comes in both green and red tip varieties that can be used interchangeably. Leaf lettuce has a tender, sweet, mild flavor that makes them versatile for any salad. (photo source)
- Mizuna – mizuna lettuce is a Japanese green that has tender leaves with a pleasant peppery flavor. Mizuna lettuce is commonly seen in spring green mixes. (photo source)
- Endive – endive lettuce is a category that includes Belgian endive, curly endive, and escarole. Belgian endive has crunchy, bitter leaves usually used to make hors d’oeuvres but can also be chopped up and added to salad. Curly endive (frisee) is a also a crisp bitter green that can be used in salads or as a side dish. Curly endive is often seen on salads to add visual interest over flavor. The outer leaves are more bitter than the more pale, tender, and mild inner leaves. Escarole has sturdy bitter leaves that are best cooked as a side dish or used in soups. Young escarole leaves are more mild and can be used in salads. (photo source)
- Iceberg – Iceberg lettuce is known for its crisp texture and long shelf life in the refrigerator. However, iceberg lacks most of the flavor and nutrients that other lettuce varieties contain. (photo source)
Iceberg, romaine, leaf lettuce, and butterhead lettuce are the most common salad greens. However, spring salad mixes are becoming more common in supermarkets and general contain some mix of arugula, mizuna, frisee, radicchio, spianch, tat soi, oakleaf, red chard, and red mustard greens. While I have only listed the more common lettuce varieties here there are countless varieties that I haven’t even mentioned. Check out The Cook’s Thesaurus on salad greens for more information on lettuce varieties!