Butterhead – My runner-up for favorite Lettuce has an astounding ability to take a simple salad to new, elegant heights. It also is a perfect wrapper for sautéed veggies or even sliced avocado. Butterhead’s characteristics are loose, sort of flat leaves and its shape is like a flower. The leaves are delicate, so be careful when you wash them and please, never put a knife to them. Tear gently.
The family members are Boston, Bibb, Limestone and sometimes Batavia – a cross between Crisphead and Butterhead.
Crisphead – There is a time and place for a good Crisphead lettuce, better known as Iceberg. Its main characteristics are tightly packed leaves and high crunch factor. It is very watery and neutral in taste, and even can stand up to a knife.
Family members include Great Lakes, the standard Iceberg, Ithaca, a bit greener, and Imperial, a superior Crisphead with the darkest leaves.
Batavia is France’s version of Crisphead, but it is sweeter than the American version.
Looseleaf – Sweet, buttery at times and always unusually shaped, this lettuce doesn’t form a compact head like the others. Colors vary and the names are really dependent on what the shape of the leaf is. Red and Green Leaf Lettuce are the most common and have many siblings – little families within families.
Romaine – Sometimes known as Cos lettuce, the king of Lettuce in my opinion! The crunch factor is key in a good salad, and this head can stand up to juicing and even the grill! Its tight, thin, football-like shape is easily recognizable. Again, keep the knife away – only tear these gentle, scrumptious leaves.
Celtuce – Also known as Stem Lettuce, this is not so popular in the US or in Europe but very popular in China and around Asia. Its outer leaves must be peeled before eating and it stands up to cooking very well.