Lettuce & Salad Leaves

21/07/2012 16:15

One of the world’s most popular salad vegetables, lettuces come in many shapes, sizes and colours. Lettuce is the base ingredient for salads and is popular as a topping for sandwiches. Lettuce can also be used in soups and the large lettuce leaves can be used as the outer covering for wraps.

Choose a selection of lettuce and salad leaves to make a mixed salad, full of different flavours, textures and colours. Fresh herbs such as coriander, basil or parsley can be added too, for extra flavour and texture. For just a hint of garlic in a salad, rub the inside of the salad bowl with a cut clove of garlic.

Lettuce should be washed thoroughly before using. Lettuce should be stored in the refrigerator. If lettuce is wilted, it can be revived by dunking it in ice water.

~ There are four different types of lettuce ~

Loose-leaf lettuces, Cos lettuces, Butterhead lettuces & Crisphead lettuces.

Loose-leaf ~ lettuces are the easiest to grow, the quickest to reach maturity, and tend not to bolt as they don't have a 'heart'.

Cos lettuces ~ are also called romaine lettuces and have kind of upright growth and longer heads. The most well known and possibly well liked variety is called 'Little Gem' the leaves are crisp and sweet.

Butterhead ~ lettuces are probably the most well known and popular variety. They have soft, smooth-edged leaves, grow fairly quickly and tolerate poorer soil.

Crisphead ~ lettuces have large crisp hearts and fewer outer leaves than the butterheads. The 'Iceberg' is a popular variety. If you like a bit of crunch to your salad, then this is the type to go for.

Lettuce and salad leaves

Iceberg ~ until the 1930's was known as Crisphead lettuce. Iceberg lettuce got its name from the way it was shipped in the old train carriages that used to transport it to the markets. Since there was no refrigeration, ice was piled on the cartons of lettuce to keep it cold. When the train carriages were opened to unload the lettuce, they looked as if they were filled with ‘icebergs’. That’s the reason we now call it Iceberg lettuce. Good to use in sandwiches and to add a crunch to mixed salads.

Little Gem ~ lovely frilly leaves and a crisp centre.They have firm hearts and a distinct flavour. Simply halve or quarter the spear-shaped heads lengthways or separate into individual leaves. Use the 'cups' to fill with sandwich filling. Great Used in a Waldorf salad with celery, apple, walnuts and mayonnaise.

Round Lettuce ~ traditional ‘British lettuce’ which has a buttery taste. The round floppy lettuce has soft mid-green outer leaves, and a slightly crisper, paler heart. a buttery taste.

Romaine or Cos ~ goes by both these names because the Romans discovered them on the Greek Island of Cos. A sweet lettuce with long, thin leaves and a crisp mid-rib, with a sweet, nutty flavour, classic choice for a caesar salad.

Radicchio ~ With its distinctive pinky, red leaves radicchio adds a splash of colour to any salad bowl. Its a member of the chicory family. Its leaves have a chewy texture similar to cabbage leaves. Use in salads and as a garnish for a variety of savoury dishes.

Butterhead ~  also known as Boston or Bibb lettuce, have softer, floppy leaves with a delicate buttery flavour. The heads are looser and smaller than the crispheads and can look a little like an open rose. Its soft buttery texture and sweet flavour makes it a good companion for stronger tasting greens.

Frisée ~ feathery, curly bitter salad leaves that are a member of the chicory family and are also known as curly endive. Leaves are yellow at the bottom becoming bright green towards the top. Use in salads, serve with a selection of other leaves and a well-flavoured dressing to counteract any bitterness.

Lamb's lettuce ~ these small spoon-shaped leaves of this variety add interest to mixed leaf salads. It has a nutty flavour and is also known as corn salad. Great Used in mixed salads, especially with potatoes and beetroot. Serve it with a mustard dressing to bring out its flavour.

Mesclun ~ is a blend of choice salad greens which originated in the south of France. It consists of a mixture of very young leaves and shoots of wild and cultivated plants. The mixture usually includes several varieties of leaf lettuce especially oakleaf, leafy cutting chicory, dandelion, arugula, corn salad, radicchio, chervil, sorrel, curly endive and purslane.

Red Chard ~ With a similar flavour to spinach, adds a bit of colour to pasta dishes, salads and wraps.

Rocket~ very versatile and great served cold in salads, wilted in pasta or on top of a pizza. thin spiky leaf has a strong peppery flavour. It goes well with Mediterranean ingredients such as Parmesan cheese and pine nuts.

Baby leaf spinach ~  one of the most popular salad leaves. It combines well with olive oil dressings and is delicious with egg, tomato and lentil dishes. It works well in warm salads, with grilled cheese, meat or crispy bacon.

Watercress ~ A dark green leaf with a distinctive peppery flavour. Watercress can be used as a salad leaf instead of rocket. Try adding some chopped watercress to homemade fishcakes.

 Floppy green lettuces, radishes, spring onions, snipped chives, and boiled eggs, all smothered in a delicious homemade salad cream, my kind of salad! The kind of salad I was served as a child and grew up to love, all freshly picked  from my dads vegetable patch, wonderful English country garden salads for our tea. I still make and enjoy this salad, even today. : )

Salads that involve hard boiled eggs require the eggs to be cooked for 10 to 15 minutes. So best get your eggs on to boil. Place the eggs in the saucepan and cover them with just enough cold water. Put them on a high heat, as soon as they reach boiling point, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook for for 10 to 15 minutes depending upon their size. The most important part is to cool the eggs rapidly under cold running water. Let the cold tap run over them for about 1 minute, then leave them in cold water till they're cool enough to handle. Then, tap the eggs all over to crack the shells, and peel them. Slice the eggs with a knife or cutter. These egg slices will be perfect for garnishing. You can also cut the eggs into halves.
Tip ~ If you don't cool the eggs rapidly they will go on cooking and become overcooked, then you get the black-ring problem.


2 floppy green lettuces
Couple of handfuls radishes, trimmed
6 spring onions, trimmed & sliced diagonally
3 Boiled egg, cut into slices or halved
Snipped chives

Twist the base off the lettuces and discard the tough outer leaves, and with out seperating the remainder rinse the lettuce under the cold tap, washing inside and out.Thoroughly shake the lettuces dry and place each one in in a bowl, opening out the leaves as though they were a flower. Scatter over the radishes, spring onions and decorate with the egg slices or halves, sprinkle over the chives and just before serving, spoon the salad cream over the salads.

Makes enough to serve 4-6

3 Medium egg yolks
4 tbsp double cream
1 tsp English mustard
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
sea salt

Whisk all the ingredients in a bowl set over a pan with simmering water in it, then stir constantly for a few minutes until the mixture thickens, take care not to overheat otherwise it will scramble. Put the salad cream into a bowl, cover the surface with cling film and leave to cool ( this stops a skin forming), then chill until required.

Tip ~ you could make the salad cream in quantity in advance, it will keep well in the fridge for upto a week.