All About Lettuce

All About Lettuce

Get to know five major varieties of lettuce and how to select and store them.

By: Elizabeth Stark

A range of flavourful lettuce varieties has recently popped up in produce aisles everywhere, so it’s high time lettuce got the spotlight. Whether it’s an accent in a sandwich or taking centre stage in a salad, there’s a lettuce for every situation. Use this guide to common lettuces and learn the best ways to store and eat them.

Selecting Lettuce
Pick heads or leaves that are firm and fresh looking. Avoid heads with any signs of discoloration, spots or wilted leaves. Most grocery store lettuce will stay fresh wrapped in a plastic bag for a couple of days. Add a paper towel to the bag to regulate the moisture level and extend the shelf life. Be sure to change out the paper towel once it's damp.

Common Lettuce Varieties
Now that you know how to store it, find out which type of lettuce is right for you and the dish you’re preparing.

1. Romaine
Also known as cos lettuce, romaine is a vivid shade of green and offers a crisp, robust leaf packed with nutrients like Vitamins A, C and K.

  • Unlike more delicate lettuce varieties, romaine is a particularly hearty variety that holds up well for several days in the fridge.
  • Its crunchy leaves make romaine ideal for salads with thick dressings.
  • Heads of romaine hold up beautifully to more unique treatments like grilling or even a quick sauté.

2. Butter Lettuce
Butter lettuce is often referred to as Boston or Bib lettuce and is usually sold as a large round head of lettuce.

  • Store butter lettuce by gently wrapping the underside with a paper towel to absorb moisture and place in a sealed bag in the fridge.
  • To prepare butter lettuce, tear the outer leaves off of the core until you have the amount you need.
  • Its strong leaves are also very supple, making butter lettuce excellent for a recipe featuring heavier ingredients like fresh corn or tomatoes.

Try using butter lettuce for creating yummy lettuce wraps, or even throwing it in at the very end of a braise.


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3. Mesclun
Mesclun is typically a mix of young, tender lettuce shoots. The traditional mix consists of chervil, arugula, dandelion, radicchio, frisée, sorrel and endive.

  • Though mesclun typically includes bitter lettuces, the younger leaves have just a hint of bite.
  • It's best to eat the leaves as soon as possible. To extend their life, add a paper towel to the bag or container and keep in the fridge.
  • Use mesclun for recipes that really showcase the lettuce itself, like a simple salad with a light vinaigrette.

4. Green Leaf Lettuce
Green leaf lettuce is easily identified by its ruffled edges. It has a mild flavour and extremely unique texture. It is traditionally a hardy variety and can be eaten raw in crunchy salads and even sautéed or grilled for a twist.

  • Remove the leaves from the core and refrigerate them in a plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb excess water

5. Oakleaf
Oakleaf lettuce is also commonly known as leaf lettuce and is easily identified by its delicate, colored leaves. Oakleaf comes in many colour variations ranging from pale green to vibrant sienna.

  • To store delicate Oakleaf, wash and completely dry the leaves. Place them in a sealed plastic bag with a paper towel. It should keep for up to five days.
  • Oakleaf has a clean, lightly sweet flavour, and the fragile leaves are perfect for a traditional green salad.

Elizabeth’s work can be found with her husband, Brian’s, on their blog,
Brooklyn Supper a story of a family eating with the seasons in Virginia and Brooklyn. They believe strongly that good, local food and wholesome meals should be for everyone.

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Thanks for the tips. I now know how to store the more delicate varieties.

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