Most Viewed Stories
Crop of the Week: Butterhead lettuce
• Butter lettuces have small, round, loosely formed heads with soft, butter-textured leaves ranging from a multitude and degree of red and rosy colors along with greens and yellow tinges. The flavor is sweet and succulent.
• In 2011, Yuma County farmers produced more than 1,200 acres of butter lettuce valued at over $1.2 million.
• Butter lettuce originated from the Mediterranean basin. Other varieties were developed as hybrids from the original genetic line. The two best-known varieties of butter lettuce in the U.S. are Bibb and Boston lettuce. How do you tell them apart? Boston's leaves are wider and lighter green than Bibb's. The smaller Bibb is highly prized by gourmets, and it is the flavorful rose and red tinged varieties that “steal the show” with taste and beauty.
• Bibb owes its name to John Bibb, who developed this variety in Kentucky from Boston lettuce in the 1850s.
• Butter lettuce, as its name suggests, is so tender that it melts in the mouth like butter.
• Butter lettuce is composed of 96 percent water. It is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, protein, sodium and vitamins A, B, C and K.
• Butter lettuce is very fragile and its leaves wilt quickly. Experts suggest that butter lettuce should be stored in a perforated bag in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. Select unwilted green leaves with no signs of damage or yellowing. It requires gentle washing and handling.
• Butter lettuce with its slightly sweet, slightly astringent flavor makes it a perfect salad base with fruit, citrus, fish or nuts. Since butter lettuce's soft leaves wilt readily, wait until immediately before serving to dress them.
• Butter lettuce's uses extend well beyond salads. The large, soft outer leaves can be used as the wrappers in lettuce wraps, tortilla-less tacos or whatever. There's a tendency to put cottage cheese or egg salad into such things, but don't' stop there. Some recipes call for stuffing butter lettuce with bean salad, salsa, couscous and various cheeses. Butter lettuce is also nice in regular sandwiches. You can put quite a bit of butter lettuce into a sandwich, so that the lettuce becomes an important part of the filling.
• Cooking with lettuce often is overlooked. The large, soft leaves of butter lettuce are very useful in soups, torn and added just before serving, either stirred into the pot or placed in the individual bowls with the soup added on top. The shredded leaves can also be added to stir fry just at the end of cooking.
Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 726-3904.