Lettuce is available to purchase year-round but most home gardeners will be harvesting plentiful bounties in January. Lettuce is often only used in sandwiches and salads but it has great versatility.
Choose lettuces with crisp, clean leaves.
Refrigerate in a plastic bag or in the crisper compartment of the fridge. If the lettuce still has roots attached, place the roots in a jar of water and do not refrigerate.
Lettuce is largely composed of water so it is low in kilojoules. There is a large variety in nutritional value between the many cultivars, however — many contain vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, fibre and the antioxidant beta-carotene. For maximum nutritional benefit choose darker green or red leafy lettuces.
Lettuce can of course be used raw in a variety of salads and as a filling in sandwiches, wraps and burgers. Here are creative new ways to use this versatile green.
- Make Asian-inspired lettuce cups by filling iceberg lettuce leaves with a mince or rice-based mixture. Serve Thai larb in lettuce cups as a refreshing entrée.
- Try Lettuce soup. There are many flavour variations available and it can be served hot or chilled. Lettuce, pea and mint is a great combination.
- Stir-fry a crisp lettuce such as iceberg with garlic, onion and peanut oil over a high heat for one minute. Add a little soy sauce, sesame oil, sherry, sugar, pepper and salt then sauté for one more minute.
- Make a refreshing drink on a hot afternoon by juicing carrot, cucumber and lettuce.
- Lettuce makes a great coleslaw base. Mix finely sliced lettuce, cucumber and celery and dress with a mixture of mayonnaise, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and a little salt.
- Try this great recipe idea: Butter lettuce, pea and feta salad
Did you know? Lettuces can be divided into two main groups: head lettuces, the most common in New Zealand (eg. iceberg), and leafy lettuces, which are loose leaf lettuces with no heart (eg. frilly).