- Think color and shape and pick the best one you can find
- Think local
- Younger is often tastier (for those of us that aren’t ruminants)
- Don’t be afraid of a bit of soil
- Buy the head
Set your sights on the best example you can find when you’re buying lettuce. You want clear colors and crunchy crispiness. Don’t go for lettuces with wilting leaves, mushy and light brown sections and/or lots of dirt.
Buy lettuce and other green leaves with the same critical eye that you’d buy flowers for someone you want to impress. Lettuce, like flowers, are plants that live above the ground and they should look alive, vibrant and healthy.
There’s every chance that a head of lettuce that has been picked close to you in terms of distance have been picked recently too. You can taste the difference.
Green plants consist of cellulose and get more fibrous and harder the older they are. This is also true of lettuce and green leaves. Keep an eye out for small shoots and younger plants. They have a milder flavor and a better texture for us animals that aren’t ruminants.
Vegetables and lettuce in particular are some of the most beautiful things you’ll put on a plate. Work with the flavors, but also think about color when choosing lettuce. This sometimes contradicts the advice above to “Think young”, because younger plants may have developed less color.
Red and white lettuce
Red lettuces take on a deeper redder color if they experience cold nights. Lettuces that have white crunchy leaves in the middle will have been tied up to prevent chlorophyll from forming.
Sand and soil
Traces of sand and soil at the base of your lettuce don’t need to be seen as negative. On the contrary, it can mean that the lettuce has been grown “properly” as in the past and tastes better than products produced in “sterile” conditions. Dip the whole head of lettuce in a large bowl of water and it will be easier to clean.
Buy the head
Buy the whole lettuce, not leaves in a bag. Leaves that stay on the plant keep for longer. Another advantage is that you can cut off leaves that have wilted. In a bag you’re often forced to bin the whole lot.
Choosing a ready-made salad mix can be a good solution if you’re really short of time. But it’s less good for sustainability and your control over what you are buying.
Reject lettuce that’s loose, spotted, broken, slimy, moldy or clearly has old cut surfaces and/or has new shoots growing.