There are hundreds of varieties of lettuce grown with differing harvest times. In the US these varieties fall into 4 main categories (each covering many varieties): butterhead, crisphead, leaf and romaine. Butterhead has small, round, loosely formed heads with soft, buttery-textured leaves ranging from pale green on the outer leaves to a pale yellow-green on the inner leaves. The flavor is sweet and succulent. Crisphead lettuce comes in large, round, tightly packed heads of pale green leaves. Though crisp, succulent and wilt-resistant, all crispheads have a rather neutral flavor. Romaine lettuce grows in a long head of sturdy leaves which have a firm rib down their centers. Varieties include green, red and baby romaine. Romaine is the classic lettuce of choice for Caesar salads. Because it's said to have originated on the Aegean island of Cos, romaine is also called Cos lettuce. The term head lettuce describes those varieties on which the leaves grow in a dense rosette. Leaf lettuce describes the varieties with leaves that branch from a single stalk in a loose bunch rather than forming a tight head. The leaves are crisper and more full-flavored than those of the Head Lettuce varieties.
Season: available year-round
How to select: Look for crisp leaves and no blemishes.
How to store: Wash thoroughly, pat dry and refrigerate with a damp paper towel in a plastic bag for 3-5 days. This crisping process is essential before serving, as lettuce loses moisture in transit. Do not allow lettuce to saok, as the water tends to soften some leaves.
How to prepare: braise, raw
Matches well with: anchovies, avocados, cheese, egg yolks, garlic, lemon, mayonnaise, mustard, oil, onions, pepper, vinaigrette, vinegar