Lettuce is a cool temperature crop, so you’ll often find the highest-quality product at farmers’ markets in the spring and fall. Lettuce often bolts and gets bitter in the heat of summer, so look for better tasting lettuce and wider varieties outside of the hot season. Here are a few that you’ll see:
Arugula: Long, spiked, dark green leaves and a peppery flavor. Wild-harvested arugula is the most pungent (look for it at farmers markets and local foods co-ops). Cultivated arugula is widely available and varies greatly in strength of flavor.
Butter Lettuce: Crisp-head lettuce – its leaves form a compact head as it grows – although its head is much less compact than iceberg lettuce. Butter lettuce has a tender texture and large, cupped leaves that work beautifully in salads, especially with delicate dressings.
Oak Leaf Lettuce: Can be green, red, bronze – but they are all loose-leaf lettuces, meaning the leaves stay loose and attached only at the base as they grow instead of forming tight, compact heads like iceberg lettuce or cabbage. They make excellent salads and work with a wide range of dressings.
Watercress: Bright, peppery flavor prized for salads and gently “wilted” preparations. It grows wild in streams in our area, but is easily cultivated with the right irrigation.