Romaine is the lettuce that contains the most dietary fibre, in addition to being very rich in vitamins and minerals. Its name comes from the Romans who democratized it, then from the fact that it has been imported from Italy since the 14th century. But think again, the name of the famous Caesar dressing that often accompanies it’s not linked to these Roman roots. Rather, it was the Italian-American chef Caesar Cardini who invented it in the 1920s. Romaine lettuce is in season from mid-June to mid-October. Since its heart is firm and its leaves are robust, the popular romaine is very crunchy and is especially delicious with a good dressing of any style.
Quebecers have been eating curly lettuce since the very beginnings of colonization. It was in 1541, in Cap-Rouge, that Jacques Cartier’s crew planted the first lettuces, including those with curly foliage. Since then, this variety in particular has been gardened because of its strong resistance to diseases. The very wavy leaves of the curly give it a texture that is both tender and crunchy to the palate. This lettuce can be mixed with other greens to add a crunchy element. It can also be the basis of a delicious salad when it’s simply served with vegetables and seasoned with a vinaigrette.
Like the curly, the sucrine is aptly named. Its slightly wavy leaves are crunchy and a little sweet. Maybe you know this cute lettuce better under the name Winter Density (Craquerelle du Midi)? It’s also called that since it’s mainly cultivated in the south of France, where the climate suits it well. This is because sucrine tolerates heat and drought well. It is as delicious raw as sautéed in a drizzle of olive oil or in chicken broth to which you can add almost any vegetable lying around in your refrigerator. It is very easy to grow in containers on the balcony or in the vegetable garden.
The radicchio also comes from Italy. Yes Yes! The kingdom of pizza has been cultivating it since the 16th century. This is a rather bitter lettuce that goes very well with more conventional greens. In addition, its pretty red leaves add a very interesting touch of colour to the starters and accompaniments that you concoct. In fact, radicchio leaves are green first, then they turn red with freshness. Its taste is similar, among other things, to that of endive. To tame its bitterness, it can be served in a salad with fruit or with a slightly sweet vinaigrette. Think pear, grapefruit and orange, fruits that go very well with raw or cooked radicchio.
Lamb’s lettuce is not lettuce … Rather, it’s a vegetable that belongs to the same family as valerian. In all cases, lamb’s lettuce, sometimes called doucette, is often eaten in salads. It notably forms a devilish duo with the radicchio. In addition, its very pretty green pigment comes from a large amount of chlorophyll it contains. Lamb’s lettuce is therefore perfect for decorating your starters and impressing your guests! It’s also very good on its own, sprinkled with a dash of vinegar and good oil.
The great thing about dandelion greens is that you can pick them right from your garden! But to appreciate them at their true value, it’s first and foremost necessary to prepare mentally for a storm of bitterness. Dandelion greens are a nice addition to salads, but they can also repel many eaters. Never mind: just cook them in a pan with other local foods (such as garlic from Quebec) to soften their taste or even balance their bitterness with a sweeter vinaigrette. Enjoy this (no weed) weed!