Both the English and Latin words for lettuce are based on the heavy, milky juice of the vegetable, which in its primitive form is prickly, with large leaves on the ends of long stems.
The close-packed lettuce heads were well developed in Europe by the sixteenth century, while the loose-head type was developed later.
Leafy types such as Cos lettuce are the most nutritious, being richer in chlorophyll, iron, folic acid and vitamins A and C and contains the most silicon of common vegetables. Iceberg and other types of head lettuce are very gas forming and contain little nutritional value. Lettuce contains the sedative lacturcarium, which relaxes the nerves without impairing digestion.
There are several types of lettuce, but three (leaf, head and cos or romaine) are the most common.
- Leaf: Also known as looseleaf, cutting or bunching lettuce, this type has loosely bunched leaves and is the most widely planted. It is used mainly for salads.
- Romaine/Cos: Used mainly for salads and sandwiches, this type forms long, upright heads (this is the most often used lettuce in a Caesar salad)
- Iceberg: Very heat-sensitive and was originally adapted for growth in the northern US. It is low in flavour and nutritional content, being composed of more water than other lettuce types.
Healing properties: Bitter and sweet tastes, cool and light qualities, diuretic, sedative, dries damp conditions including edema and digestive ferments and yeasts. Used for starting or increasing the production of mother's milk, also useful in the treatment of hemorrhoids. Its diuretic, cooling nature treats scanty urine and blood in the urine. Combines well with fruit at the same meal.
Caution: Not to be used if eye diseases exist. Excess lettuce in the diet can cause dizziness.