The Kitchen Think: Lettuce Try Something New!


When Mama was growing up, there was only one kind of lettuce: Iceberg. That’s it. It was shredded for tacos, wedged for salads (with Green Goddess dressing!) and leafed for sandwiches. Even fancy-do restaurants with salad bars had only one kind of lettuce: Iceberg.

But then, the world changed. Romaine, mesclun and field greens began showing up on restaurant menus and making special guest appearances in supermarkets. And naturally, just when we think we can identify what’s in that bag of pre-washed greens, the lettuce world is rocked by something completely new and different…

The Amazing Wall of Lettuce.

Last week’s farmer’s market find was 45 (that’s right forty-five) different types of lettuce at Henry’s Farm.  This isn’t just lettuce… these are buttery, tender tastes of early summer that are feather light with delicate earthy goodness.

Intimidating, eh? Not if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone and experiment a little. Toto, we’re not in Kansas any more…

Actually, Henry’s Farm is a real family farm that is worked by three generations of Henry Brockman’s family in Central Illinois. Henry doesn’t grow only lettuce, but more than 650 varieties of vegetables. Some of them are pretty eclectic, with similarly eclectic names, such as “Purple Podded Shelling Peas” and “Egyptian Walking Onions.”

But back to The Amazing Wall of Lettuce. These are some of the varieties that filled our basket (literally… Henry has these old fashioned wooden peach baskets that customers use to collect their produce):

Oaky Red Splash– Oak shaped leaves speckled with red flecks… an amazing juicy, sweet flavor!

Galisse– Soft and sweet with a delicate pale green color.


Kalura– A great foil to the softer lettuce because of the sweet Romaine crunch!

Joker– We bought it because of the name and because it is a cousin of the Jester lettuce! The light green leaves are splashed with red with a firm crisp texture.

These are heirloom lettuces, so they are a bit more delicate than the grocery store variety. You’ll be tempted, but don’t go hog-wild… buy only what you think you’ll be able to eat within three or four days. Romaine will last a little longer, but the butterheads are wimps.

Rinse the lettuce just before serving in very cold water and pat dry with a clean towel or paper towels. If the leaves seem a little limp, immerse them in iced water for a few minutes. Don’t drown them in salad dressing, either, a light vinaigrette is all you really need or just a little squeeze of lemon and tiny pinch of salt.

Forty-five (45!!!) different kinds of lettuce provides you with a lot of opportunity to try a myriad of combinations. So live a little…besides, Iceberg lettuce is soooo yesterday.



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I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: