The history of lettuce cultivation stretches back hundreds of years. In that time, dozens of varieties were harvested by farmers. Each provides its own unique flavor, subtle and not-so-subtle variations in taste.
So, what does lettuce taste like? The answer varies depending on the specific lettuce type, ranging from crisp and refreshing to bitter and buttery.
To answer this question with more depth, let’s take a look at the most popular lettuce varieties.
Iceberg lettuce is one of the most popular leafy greens on the market. Used in a variety of salads, it proves a reliable staple that pairs well with all the common salad ingredients. Iceberg lettuce has a refreshing crunch with a mild flavor. Iceberg mixes well with shaved carrots, snapped peas, and other vegetables to make a salad.
This leafy green offers a peppery taste and a subtle tartness, a popular alternative to traditional salad greens. Its texture is soft and dry and it pairs well with goat cheese, dried cranberries, and nuts.
The name doesn’t mislead. Butter lettuce has a buttery flavor and texture, with smooth leaves and a sweetness perfect for sandwiches. Their flexible leaves lend themselves to wraps, as well. However, butter lettuce makes for a great salad, as well, pairing well with various cheeses.
Coral lettuce is a hearty variety with a great crunch. Like iceberg, coral lettuce contains a mild flavor, slightly more bitter than iceberg or romaine. For its robust leaves with wavy edges, coral lettuce is often used as garnish or on burgers. It can also be grilled with salt and pepper for an interesting twist.
This popular purple leaf adds a bitter note to any salad. Rarely eaten alone, it pairs well with other leaves, often mixed with iceberg or romaine to build out a salad’s flavor profile. As a thicker leaf, it also offers a nice crunch. When cooked, the flavor of radicchio lettuce turns sweet.
Depending on your needs, different leafy greens come in handy. You might serve a light salad ahead of a heavy meal. Iceberg offers a pleasant preamble to a big dinner, a salad to whet your appetite.
Or perhaps you want to eat a salad on its own. A more complex flavor makes a meal more filling. If you struggle throughout the day sating your hunger, a more robust lunch salad might do the trick. Using arugula with goat cheese and nuts knocks out midday belly rumbles.
In summary, lettuce tastes like different things depending on which leaf you choose and what you pair it with. Despite the perception as dull, lettuce actually offers a great deal of intriguing variety!