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Extension > Food > Farm to School > Minnesota Toolkit for School Foodservice > Promoting Food > Promoting Lettuce

Promoting Lettuce

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lettuce

Cool Stuff About Lettuce!

Did you know that lettuce was discovered as a weed growing around the Mediterranean? The Egyptians have been eating lettuce for over 4,500 years. Lettuce is the second most popular fresh vegetable in the United States. Americans eat about 30 pounds of lettuce every year!

Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, had 19 varieties of lettuce growing in his garden. Even though iceberg lettuce has very little flavor or nutritional value, it is the most popular variety of lettuce in the United States today. Dark green lettuces always indicate more flavor, higher fiber, and extra nutrients. One cup of dark green lettuce has about 9 calories and is rich in vitamin A and potassium.

In order to have the tastiness and freshest lettuce, you should wash and cut lettuce right before eating it and remember—don’t store lettuce with apples, pears, or bananas. These fruits release a gas that causes lettuce to get brown spots and wilt quickly. Pick up some lettuce with your family at the local farmer’s market or FARM NAME. Try using the recipe in this month’s newsletter. Today at lunch, you will have the opportunity to sample lettuce in FOOD ITEM from FARM NAME/CITY.

lettuce

In [MONTH] your child tried [FOOD ITEM] with locally grown lettuce from [FARM NAME] in [CITY]. Prepare this delicious recipe with your family and ask your child(ren) if they can answer the following trivia questions.

  1. Lettuce was first discovered as a weed and Egyptians have been eating lettuce for more than 4,500 years. Today, lettuce is the second most popular fresh vegetable. How many pounds of lettuce do Americans eat each year?
  2. Thomas Jefferson grew 19 varieties of lettuce in his garden. Lettuce varieties can be put into main four groups: romaine, butterhead, crisphead and looseleaf. Each group grows and tastes different. Do you know what the most popular lettuce is in the United States?
  3. The nutritional value of lettuce varies with the variety. If you’re looking for more flavor, higher fiber and more nutrients, you should choose (light or dark?) green lettuce leaves.

Trivia Answers

  1. Americans eat about 30 pounds of lettuce every year. That’s about five times more than what we ate in the early 1900s.
  2. Iceberg lettuce (Crisphead) is the most popular lettuce in the United States. Because of its shipping qualities, iceberg lettuce has been most available which accounts for its popularity even though it is low in nutritional value and flavor. Iceberg lettuce got its name from the fact that California growers started shipping it covered with heaps of crushed ice in the 1920s.
  3. You should always look for lettuces that are darker green in color. Dark green leaves indicate more flavor, higher fiber, and nutritional value. One cup of dark green lettuce has about 9 calories and is rich in vitamin A and potassium. In order to have the tastiness and freshest lettuce, wash and cut it right before eating and remember—don’t store lettuce with apples, pears, or bananas! These fruits emit a gas that causes brown spots and wilt on lettuce.

MS Word version of Newsletter

lettuce

History and Origin

  • Lettuce is a member of the sunflower family.
  • Lettuce was discovered as a weed growing around the Mediterranean - Egyptians have been eating lettuce for more than 4500 years as seen in Egyptian tomb paintings.
  • Greek scholars discovered many of the varieties of lettuce.
  • Christopher Columbus introduced lettuce to the Americas.
  • Romaine lettuce was named by the Romans who believed it had healthful properties. In fact, the Emperor Caesar Augustus put up a statue praising lettuce because he believed it cured him from an illness.

Nutrition

  • The nutritional value of lettuce varies with the variety. In general, lettuce provides small amounts of dietary fiber, some carbohydrates, a little protein and a trace of fat. Iceberg is a head lettuce that is very low in nutritional value and flavor. The most abundant nutrient in iceberg lettuce is water. Dark green lettuce leaves always indicate higher fiber, flavor and nutritional value.
  • The spine and ribs of lettuce provide dietary fiber, while vitamins and minerals are concentrated in the delicate leaf portion.
  • The most important nutrients in lettuce are vitamin A and potassium.
  • The vitamin A comes from beta carotene (beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body), whose yellow-orange is hidden by green chlorophyll pigments.
  • Lettuce, except iceberg, is also a moderately good source of vitamin C, calcium, iron and copper.
  • Look for salad greens that are darker green in color. Iceberg lettuce has little nutritional value.
  • One cup of raw leaf lettuce has 9 calories, 1 gram of protein, and 1.3 grams of fiber.
  • If possible, do not cut or slice lettuce leaves in advance. Damaged, cut lettuce leaves release an ascorbic acid oxidase, which destroys vitamin C and causes the cut edges to discolor.

Did you know…?

  • In the United States, lettuce is the second most popular fresh vegetable. Americans eat about 30 pounds of lettuce every year. That’s about five times more than what we ate in the early 1900s.
  • Thomas Jefferson had 19 varieties of lettuce growing in his garden.
  • Lettuce varieties can be put into main four groups: romaine, butterhead, crisphead and looseleaf. Each group has its own growth and taste characteristics.
  • Romaine. This lettuce has gained tremendous popularity in the past decade as the key ingredient in Caesar salads. It has a long shape with darker outer leaves. The tight, inner leaves are good in salad because of the light, mild taste. Romaine lettuce is a good source of Vitamin A.
  • Butterhead, which includes Boston lettuce (which looks like a blooming rose) and Bib (which has a small cup-shaped appearance). This variety of lettuce has loose heads, grassy green-colored leaves, buttery texture, and a mild flavor.
  • Looseleaf. This variety does not grow to form lettuce heads. Instead, it has loose leaves with curly edges joined at the stem. The flavor of Looseleaf is light and mild. Common types are Oak Leaf, Red Leaf, and Green Leaf.
  • Crisphead. The most popular type of Crisphead is Iceberg lettuce, which is known for its crispy leaves and mild flavor. It’s the least nutritious of the salad greens. This pale green lettuce takes on the cabbage appearance with its leaves more tightly packed together. Crisphead lettuce has less Vitamin A than other types of lettuce, which is why it may be a good idea to mix Crisphead lettuce with other salad greens.
  • Iceberg lettuce got its name from the fact that California growers started shipping it covered with heaps of crushed ice in the 1920s. It had previously been called Crisphead lettuce.
  • Iceberg lettuce is the most popular lettuce in the United States. Because of its shipping qualities, iceberg has been most available which accounts for its popularity even though it is low in nutritional value and flavor.
  • Lettuce is a fairly hardy, cool-weather vegetable that thrives when the average daily temperature is between 60 and 70°F. Lettuce should be planted in early spring or late summer. At high temperatures, growth is stunted and the leaves may become bitter.
  • Avoid storing lettuce with apples, pears or bananas. These fruits release ethylene gas, a natural ripening agent that will cause the lettuce to develop brown spots and decay quickly.
  • Lettuce is over 90% water.
  • England holds the title for the largest lettuce head, which weighed 25 pounds!
  • Almost all lettuce is packed right in the field. About 25% of all iceberg lettuce is made into fresh cut salads.

How to Eat Lettuce

  • Add other vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, and radishes to make a tasty salad.
  • For a fruity touch, mix in apple slices, raisins, mandarin oranges, grapes, and pineapple.
  • Turn a salad into a meal by adding garbanzo beans, kidney beans, snow peas and green peas (for added protein and fiber).

The above information was compiled from:

snap.nal.usda.gov/foodstamp/nutrition_seasons.php
www.leafy-greens.org/greens/lettuces.html
urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/lettuce1.html
http://www.panen.org/sites/default/files/SNAC%20Materials/lettuce_newsletter2_0.pdf
http://www.panen.org/snap/lettuce
www.agday.org/education/fun_facts.php
www.kids-cooking-activities.com/lettuce-facts.html
www.foodsubs.com/Greensld.html
www.foodreference.com/html/artsalads.html
www.producepedia.com/produce/lettuce-0
www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/vegetables/growing-leafy-greens-in-minnesota-home-gardens/

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Tasting Poster (485 K PDF)

3-Column Poster (540 K PDF)

Index Card (478 K PDF)

Photos

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bowl of lettuce Bowl of Lettuce photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
mixed baby greens Mixed Baby Greens photo by Brett Olson Renewing the Countryside
mixed greens Variety of Greens photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
red lettuce Red Lettuce photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
red & green lettuce Red & Green Lettuce photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
rows of lettuce Rows of Lettuce photo by Brett Olson Renewing the Countryside
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  • Functional Food - Deep Green Leafy Vegetables — Perfect for a lesson on leafy green vegetables, this website includes links to a lesson plan, a Power Point presentation, a fact sheet, tip sheets, a crossword puzzle, recipes, and an evaluation booklet.
  • Lettuce Be Different — Lesson plan for elementary children involving growing several different types of lettuce, and connecting that diversity among lettuces to diversity among people.
  • Lettuce Man — Song lyrics for "The Lettuce Man" to the tune of "The Muffin Man."
  • Lettuce Lab — Science lab activity documenting plant growth with lettuce plants in different growing conditions.
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