Red leaf lettuce is a form of loose-leaf lettuce, very comparable to green leaf lettuce. It packs a high nutritional value, far superior to iceberg lettuce, into very few calories, about 15 per a 12-ounce (340.2 grams) serving. Additionally, this type of lettuce is an excellent source of beta carotene, which may be indicated in reducing risk for developing cataracts.
Red and green leaf lettuces are essentially the same from a nutritional standpoint and in many other ways. Both types are of the daisy family, Asteraceae, and both belong to the genus and species L. sativa. Of the lettuces grown, the most nutritionally superior is Romaine lettuce, but both lettuce are excellent foods. They tend to have a mild taste, a nice crunch, and are excellent as used in a variety of dishes.
Red leaf lettuce has the advantage too, of adding some very appealing color to a salad. Sandwiches can be made that much more special with a few delicately layered red and green leafs. The name can be a little deceiving since red lettuces are not completely red. Instead, the tops of the leaves exhibit some red or purple coloring that may extend a few inches into the leaf.
If you’re looking for lettuce that will last long in the fridge though, red leaf lettuce is definitely not the first choice. Most green and red leaf varieties tend to last no more than three or four days at most, and they should never be stored in fruit compartments with things like apples. When you choose this lettuce from the store, buy the lettuce as close to the date you plan to use it, and avoid any heads that are brown, wilting or that feel slimy to the touch. You’ll also want to wash this lettuce very carefully, leaf by leaf, since the leaves can contain bugs, and the looser leaf can easily allow dirt and sand to get into the lettuce head.
Lettuce that has sat for a while may grow bitter, but you can usually tell this by smell. If the leaves and stem smell bitter, you may not want to use the lettuce. A sweet or not very smelly head suggests a sweet flavor or simply a very mild lettuce flavor.
Salads and sandwiches are a great place to start when using red leaf lettuce, but don’t stop there. You can add a few leaves of this lettuce to homemade chicken stock, or it can be stir-fried or added to stews. In some cultures, lettuce is traditionally eaten cooked, but this particular type is so mild, that its uncooked inclusion in a variety of recipes is certainly recommended.
You’ll find red leaf lettuce across the world. It is most common in North America and in Europe and Asia, and when not grown indoors, this variety of lettuce needs a fairly temperate weather pattern. Fresh local heads are usually available from the midst of winter into spring, but some countries and US states have this lettuce available most of the year.