A wide range of lettuces are available to use in salad recipes, either sold whole or as mixed leaves in bags. The most popular varieties include:
: A large crisphead lettuce with pale green or red-tinged leaves.
• Butterhead or round lettuce
: The traditional ‘British lettuce’, the round lettuce has soft mid-green outer leaves and a slightly crisper, paler heart.
: A tight ball of crisp, densely packed leaves, resembling a cabbage. The leaves have a delicious refreshing crunch, but little flavour. It keeps well.
• Lollo Rosso
: has fringed and crinkled leaves that are tinged deep red at their ends, with a fairly tender, yet crisp texture. The depth of colour varies with each variety. Red or green oak leaf lettuce is very similar.
• Cos or Romaine
: A tall lettuce with thick leaves and a firm rib down the centre.
• Little Gem
: Small, densely packed crinkly leaves with a compact heart, they have a distinctive taste and keep well.
• Lamb’s lettuce
: Also known as corn salad, these delicate spoon-shaped leaves have a nutty flavour.
• Red chard
: A member of the Swiss chard family. Ideal for brightening up salads, red chard has a distinct flavour and, when young, can be treated like spinach and either eaten raw or cooked.
: These feathery, curly, bitter leaves are a member of the chicory family (also known as curly endive).
Select firm, crisp lettuce leaves with no signs of browning at the edges and no sign of wilting.
Carefully wash leaves in cold water and dry thoroughly by rinsing in a salad spinner, or wrap in a clean tea towel and shake dry.
Use most lettuces within a day or two of purchase. Iceberg and Little Gem can be kept for up to a week in the salad drawer of the fridge.