Lettuce is a cool weather plant which needs plenty of water, although some varieties can tolerate more heat than others. Many gardeners choose to plant it as an off season crop (in the fall or spring). One of the keys to great lettuce is to use organic principles in order to keep chemicals away from the plants. Lettuce starts off best between 40 degrees F and 60 degrees F. The one danger is a hard freeze. Most lettuce varieties will survive a light freeze, but a hard freeze will damage the leaves.
Most farmers and gardeners break lettuce down into four main varieties.
• Crisp head or Iceberg - This is the lettuce most often sold in the grocery story. It has a white, crisp heart (which is why it is commonly called Iceberg lettuce). It is a good choice for warmer climates or for summer crops because it is resistant to bolt.
• Butterhead lettuce produces thick leaves that are soft and cream-colored. This is one of the best tasting varieties that can be grown.
• Leaf varieties are the easiest to grow. There is no heart or head. These simply grow as a bunch of loose leaves. These are all good choices for gardeners who prefer to harvest a few leaves of lettuce at a time. Leaf lettuce can come in red, green, frilled, cut and even curled cultivars.
• Romaine or Cos lettuce is a tall plant with rigid leaves that are tightly packed together. The Romaine variety finds it use most often in a Caesar salad, which often accompanies any Italian dish either at home or in restaurants.
Oddly enough, lettuce can often be used in more recipes than just a simple salad. Although everyone loves a nice romaine salad with fresh toasted croutons and lots of olive oil - lettuce can also be used in nutritious soups and other culinary dishes
Here are two Italian recipes below which use lettuce:
Cannellini Bean Soup with Lettuce
Italian Kale with Garlic and Cannellini Beans
This is an easy recipe which is great as a side dish to breaded chicken or even as a recipe by itself. Start by rinsing a whole head of kale, making sure it is free of loose dirt and small insects. Then chop into smaller bite size pieces.
Article was contributed by Liz Krause of SimpleItalianCooking which features Italian recipes and is a source for Italian kitchen products and reviews for appliances such as the Delonghi Italian gelato maker, GM6000. Liz grew up in an Italian home where food was an important part of their daily lives. Today she enjoys spending her free time in the kitchen trying new recipes which she posts on her website.