Bibb lettuce, sometimes called limestone or cabbage lettuce, is a variety of butterhead lettuce, and when choosing the best Bibb variety of lettuce, you should select heads that have a supple, buttery leaf texture. Some of the other characteristics to consider when choosing good Bibb lettuce are the amount of lettuce you can use within a few days as well as the color and condition of the leaves. Although most lettuce has pure green leaves, some varieties of butterhead lettuce have rose-tipped leaves.
The color of the lettuce leaves is one of the first signs of good or poor condition when you are choosing any type of lettuce. Bibb lettuce should be pale green. Yellow or brown spots indicate poor-quality lettuce. Although some lettuce has reddish tints, especially at the leaf edges, good lettuce does not have brown leaf edges.
Good-quality lettuce is crisp. Bibb lettuce is succulent, but not watery like the common iceberg lettuce. You should avoid lettuce that has wilted leaves if you want sweet tasting, crisp salads. Lettuce that has slime is unappetizing.
Another indicator of good lettuce is the condition of the head. Good-quality butterhead lettuce does not form a tight head like the denser iceberg lettuce. The leaves should form a loose rosette. A good head of butterhead lettuce has leaves that curl together like rose petals spiraling out from the center bud.
Some lettuces, like the Bibb variety, do not have noticeable veins or the veins are less prominent than other varieties. The veins should not be brown or discolored. When choosing a good head of Bibb lettuce, you should avoid any heads that have torn leaves or jagged, ripped leaf edges.
Generally, hydroponically grown lettuce is cleaner than field-grown plants. If you cannot avoid buying muddy or sandy lettuce, wash it thoroughly before using it. Good lettuce should be clean, but sometimes dirt or sand is unavoidable. Washing the lettuce thoroughly can help to deter food poisoning.
Butterhead lettuces typically deteriorate relatively quickly after harvest. Select only the size of head or number of heads that you can use within one to three days. This type of lettuce bruises easily, and you should use care when handling the lettuce. Bruised lettuce frequently turns slimy.
When choosing Bibb lettuce, you should watch for insect damage. For example, the cabbage looper can bore through the leaves to the core. Misshapen leaves may indicate aphid or other insect damage. Another boring pest is the cutworm that enters a plant from the root system. Damaged leaves often have a crumpled appearance and tend to curl in an unnatural downward arc. When choosing a head of lettuce, you should pick firm, weighty heads that show no signs of burrowing pests.