Iceberg is Ideal for Salads

Really, it is. Oh, sure, there are those that criticize, saying that it lacks in any real nutritional value and maybe there is truth to that. But Iceberg Lettuce has a clean, refreshing taste and keeps pretty well in your refrigerator for at least a week, which some other lettuces don’t do as well. Although it’s low in nutrition, it is only a little below Romaine lettuce, which is my other favorite lettuce. The Iceberg lettuce is largely water, but it has a sweet, clean taste where some of the other, more nutritious lettuces, can be a bit bitter and not as refreshing. The ideal, in my opinion, is a mix of the lettuces for variety.

Iceberg lettuce is the one you find most frequently in restaurant salads. The lettuce is also great on sandwiches or for making lettuce wraps because of its nicely cupped, large leaves. It is the primary lettuce used in the United States.

Lettuce Origins

All lettuces trace back to the Mediterranean area where lettuce was first cultivated for its leaves in ancient Egypt, with evidence of that dating to about 2680 BC. Originally, it was grown for the oil produced from its seeds. The Egyptians considered it the sacred plant of Min, their god of reproduction. The cultivated variety appeared to be about 30 inches tall and resembled a larger version of the modern romaine lettuce. The Egyptians passed the seeds along to the Greeks, who then shared with Romans and more varieties were developed. Writings by Joachim Camerarius in 1586 described the three basic varieties of modern lettuce, which are loose leaf, romaine and head lettuce, such as iceberg and butter.

Christopher Columbus brought the lettuce to America in the late 15th century. Meanwhile, more varieties were being developed in Europe. Many of these are still grown in gardens today. I grew a mixture of lettuce a couple of years ago, but pulling leaf by leaf didn’t seem very rewarding. I grew a butter lettuce last summer and that was good, but you only get one head per plant, although after I harvested it, the plant did continue to produce leaves. In the late 19th century, documentation indicates between 65 and 140 distinct varieties.

Because lettuce has a relatively short life span once it is harvested, it didn’t expand into wide spread use until the 1900’s when packing, storage and shipping technology improved. To ship the fresh vegetable long distances,in the 1920’s, crisp head lettuce was shipped in train cars, filled with crushed ice to keep the lettuce chilled. The crisp head lettuce shipped this way came to be known as iceberg lettuce since the ice resembled icebergs. Incidentally, prior to the advent of ice-making facilities, ice used to be harvested in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Donner lake and brought down by train to Sacramento for shipping fresh produce. In the 1950’s vacuum cooling revolutionized the industry. This allowed the lettuce to be cooled and packed in the field, which kept it fresher to market.

Lettuce Uses

Around 50 AD, the Romans cooked and served lettuce with an oil and vinegar dressing, although they sometimes ate them raw. Between 81 and 96 AD, the lettuce salad prior to a meal became a tradition. In China, salads were made primarily from cooked vegetables and the lettuce was worked into all kinds of dishes from wraps to stir-frys and in other meat dishes along the way. Now days, we use lettuce in salads, wraps, sandwiches, and other ways and occasionally still cook it.

Personally, I haven’t tried cooking iceberg lettuce, although some of the loose-leaf varieties seem like they would go well in a skillet of greens. However, I did find a recipe from OceanMist for Fire Charred Iceberg Salad. This just might tempt me to try it. If you do it first, report back, please.

Nutrition Information for iceberg lettuce – 1 cup
Calories:10 Fat: 0 g Net Carbs: 1 g Protein: 1 g

Here are a couple of my quick and easy recipes for lettuce cups, which are really great for a low carb lifestyle.

Taco Lettuce Cups

4 large leaves Iceberg or Butter lettuce
1/2 lb Ground Beef
1/4 lb Chorizo
1 tablespoon Taco Seasoning
1/4 cup Pico de Gallo
1/2 cup chopped Baby Corn
2 tablespoons Black Beans
1/4 cup Butternut or Acorn Squash, cubed
1/4 cup Salsa
1/2 cup Cheddar Jack Cheese, shredded
1 small Avocado

Precook squash in the microwave or in a suacepan with a little water until it is fork tender. Cut into samller pieces.

Cook ground beef and chorizo in a skillet until lightly browned. Add taco seasoning, squash and a little water to make a moist filling. Stir in the baby corn and beans. Cook about three to five minutes to heat the corn and beans.

Put the lettuce leaf on a salad plate, spoon 1/4 of the ground meat on it, then top with Pico de Gallo and 1 tablespoon of Salsa. Add about two tablespoons of jack cheese over the top, and crown with slices of avocado. Fold the lettuce over and serve with sour cream.

Makes 4 tacos.

Nutrition Info per taco:
Calories: 424.8 Fat: 33.3 g Net Carbs:6.1 g Protein: 22.3 g

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Information for this article was helped by these pages:  Wikipedia, About Health, and

All photos are by R. Averett, Copyright Skinny Girl Bistro

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