Lettuce Be Friends

The indispensable salad ingredient, lettuce, is packed with chlorophyll, giving it an earthy, lush taste. Gentle and delicate, lettuce is heat sensitive and perishes quickly so it’s best eaten fresh and raw. It’s best to dress salads just prior to serving to prevent wilting and over-saturation. With fresh lettuce available year round and a wide selection to choose from, there’s no excuse when it comes to having it for an easy, quick, and healthy side dish.

There are roughly three types of lettuce categories and within each, dozens of varieties.


The classic “burger lettuce.” Iceberg stores well and is great for making lettuce wraps or going “bun-less” for a gluten-free option. It has the least nutritional value.


A big, dark, crunchy lettuce. Perfect for Caesar salads, or for a warm dish, the inner hearts are excellent grilled with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and a pinch of sea salt. Highly nutritional, romaine has the highest levels of vitamin C; it’s also a good source of fiber and potassium.

Green and Red Leaf:

Thin and delicate, these large, loose-leafed varieties are the most flavorful, leaning a little to the bitter side. Lovely when mixed with other leafy lettuces and fresh herbs for a tasty salad. Both types are good sources of folate; red leaf is high in vitamin A. Leaf lettuce doesn’t store as well as romaine or iceberg.


Candace Thompson of Eagle Paw Organics

Boston and Bibb (Butterhead):

Gorgeous, rosette shaped heads. Butterheads are creamy, buttery, and excellent with blue cheese. The cup-shaped leaves are pretty to use as serving beds for tuna, crab, or prawns. For best storage, keep Bibb lettuce wrapped with its root down in a bowl of water.


One of the more bitter of the bunch, it’s a lovely topper for soups and stews. The fresh, young, tender leaves are delicious in a mixed salad. Escarole is a good source of vitamins A and C.


Common in Italian cuisine, radicchio is relatively new to North America. Its bright red and white leaves come together in a tight cabbage-like head. Longer heads that are more compact have a white bulb-like base. Radicchio is high in vitamin C and iron, though lacking in chlorophyll. This lettuce is perfect for using as a serving “bowl” for hors d’oeuvres as it holds heavier salad ingredients like tuna or beans.


Mesclun Greens:

An assorted mix of baby salad greens sold loose by the pound, or in pre-packed boxes. Originating in Provence France, mesclun mixes are a popular salad mix found at many farmers markets. Typically, the blends will include arugula, red and green leaf lettuce, and mustard greens. Candace Thompson of Eagle Paw Organics has been selling her Gourmet Salad Mix at Moss Street Market for the past 12 years. Her special blend includes up to 15 different baby greens including oak leaf, lollo rossa, baby spinach, deer tongue (heirloom lettuce), red Russian kale, mustard and oriental greens such as pac choi, mizuna, and tatsoi. Candace often adds edible flowers like borage, nasturtiums, pansies, and calendula for a pop of color.


“It’s a meal on a plate,” says Candace. “These greens are packed with vitamins and flavour. It’s fresh, nutty, and a little spicy. Top it with fish, or chicken, and it’s the perfect dinner.” Eagle Paw Organics are found on the menu at Spinnakers, Zambri’s and Vista 18.


Where to find lettuce in Victoria:

With an ideal growing season for salad greens, Victoria has first pick of some of the best crops; therefore, almost every supermarket will have a good selection of lettuce to choose from. For some of the more obscure and heirloom varieties, make a visit to local farmers markets. The Grocer at the Hudson and The Root Cellar often have a nice selection of locally grown varieties too.

How to grow:

Lettuce is very easy to grow. It does well in small spaces, in pots and planter boxes. Lettuce requires a hummus-rich, well-drained soil and full sun. Feel free to ask local gardeners and the staff at garden stores which specific varieties will do best in your area.


Farmers Markets in Your Area:
Vancouver Island

“The darker the leaves, the more nutritious the lettuce—romaine lettuce can have as much as six times the vitamin C and 10 times the beta carotene as iceberg lettuce. The outer leaves tend to have the highest concentration of vitamins (similar to the skin of a carrot or potato).”

Written By:

Holly Brooke is a true B.C. gal. Having lived on the west coast most of her life, except for several years in the Kootenay's where she canoed and fished and lived in a tipi, she's very much at home outdoors and in the kitchen. ...

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