What are the different types of lettuce? Lettuce has been grown since ancient times; before the plant was domesticated, its wild variant was used to provide oil in Ancient Egypt. From its origins in the Mediterranean, it has spread all over the world and many cultivars have been designed to fit varying climates. As can be deduced, there are many different types of lettuce in existence today.
Generally speaking, the many types of lettuce can be classified into six broad categories: leaf/loose-leaf, Cos/Romaine, Crisphead, butterhead, stem/asparagus and oilseed lettuce.
This lettuces do not form a compact head, instead having a head that is composed of a bunch of loose curled leaves. These variants are the most planted and come in a variety of colors and textures. They are fast growing and attain maturity in 50days. They can be further categorized into green leaf and red leaf varieties, based on the predominant color in their leaves. Green leaf varieties include the Oak Leaf, Black seeded Simpson and Grand Rapids. The red leaf varieties include Ruby, Red Fire, Red Sails, Rouge Salad Bowl and Sierra.
These types of lettuce can grow to 19 inches. It has long and loose leaves and thrives better in unfavorable weather. Its leaves are usually crisp. They also bolt slowly. Cultivars included in this category include Green Towers, Paris Island, Cimmaron and Ez Serve, Forenschluss and Little Caesar. The Cimmaron is has reddish leaves, unlike the other cultivars. These take 65-70 days to mature.
These varieties require the most care and due well in cooler climes, unlike the previous two types of lettuce. They are very heat-sensitive. They form curved, overlapping leaves with crispy edges. They have green uoter leaves and creamy white inner leaves. They take about 80-100 days to mature. Cultivars included among these types of lettuce include Iceberg, Great Lakes, Ithaca, Igloo and Red Grenoble. The Iceberg is often cited as the most famous lettuce variety in the USA.
They form the largest group, and also the best flavored one. Their heads are typically smaller when compared to other cultivars. They take between 55 and 70 days to attain maturity, upon which their heads develops a yellowish appearance. Examples of cultivars in this category include: Buttercrunch, Aquarius, Four Seasons and Yugoslavian Red.
Stem/ Asparagus Lettuce
Stem lettuce is a variety of lettuce whose main part of interest is the plant stem (stalk), unlike the other lettuce varieties where the head is the most important section. The stem lettuce is predominantly consumed in the Orient, especially China, where the Celtuce, the only example of astem lettuce, is native. The celtuce grows in cool climes, at temperatures ranging between 15-20 degrees Celsius. The leaves of the stem lettuce can also be consumed.
This is a close relative to the wild variety. It doesn’t form a head and bolts rapidly, resulting in a very thin stalk, to which are attached similarly narrow leaves. It produces more seeds than the other cultivars; it is this seeds that are exploited in making cooking oil. With the exception of the oilseed lettuce, which are not intended for consumption, all types of lettuce can be consumed raw.