This popular winter leaf does not actually
belong to the lettuce family (it is related to Fuller's teasel), but as
it makes a lovely addition to salads, this seems a good place to include
it. Called mache in France, it has spoon-shaped leaves and an excellent
nutty flavor. As well as containing vitamins A, C and E, lettuce
provides potassium, iron and calcium and traces of other minerals.
Buying and Storing - The best lettuce is
that fresh from the garden. The next best thing is to buy lettuce from a
farm shop or pick-your-own (although if fertilizers and pesticides are
used, their flavor will be disappointing compared to the organic
product). Nowadays, lettuce is frequently sold ready shredded and packed
with herbs, an acceptable and convenient form of buying lettuce. Whether
you buy lettuce pre-packed or from the shelf, it must be fresh.
Soil and bugs can be washed off but those
with limp or yellow leaves are of no use. Eat lettuce as soon as
possible after purchasing; in the meantime keep it in a cool dark place,
such as the salad drawer of the fridge.