January 8, 2009

LettuceLettuce (Lactuca Sativa) is a green annual plant of Asteraceae family. It is one of the oldest and most popular leafy vegetables originated from the Mediterranean region. It received its name from the Latin word for milk “lac” for its milky sap. There are five main classes of lettuce and over a hundred of various types, including typical “Iceberg”, “Great Lakes”, “Boston”, “Buttercrunch” or “New York”, red “Rosy”, small “Mini Green” or “Tom Thumb”, etc., which are different in their color and shape. Some lettuce plants have a rosette of broad soft leaves or long sword-shaped leaves, some have cabbage heads with crispy leaves, some have loose heads with puffy inner leaves and some have edible stems.

Historians suppose that lettuce originated from a wild green plant with bitter leaves from the Mediterranean area. Lettuce was cultivated in Ancient Egypt about 4500 years ago. Min, the Egyptian God of fertility, was frequently portrayed with a rosette of lettuce in his hands. At that, ancient Egyptians valued the seeds of the plant, because they were producing oil from lettuce seeds. Ancient Persians were the first to use lettuce leaves as food, and the Romans were the first to discover therapeutic properties of this plant. It is said that Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar ordered to built a statue in one of his temples to honor lettuce: according to Augustus, therapeutic effects of lettuce saved him from an illness.

Lettuce is one of the most important and delicious salad crops. Its leaves are very soft and mild in flavor, and have perfect cooling effects. We used to eating fresh uncooked lettuce leaves, but in some regions in China this plant is consumed slightly stewed. In traditional Chinese culture cultivating lettuce was considered to bring good luck, and this plant had a great value in ancient China. Thus, the dishes with lettuce were served for special events, such as New Year celebrations. Currently, China is a leading producer of lettuce (over 12 million tonnes a year), followed by the U.S. (5 million tonnes), Spain (over 1 million tonnes) and Italy. In the UK, every second family is reported to eat lettuce three times a week.

Red lettuce

Lettuce is a fat-free plant with very low caloric content, that is why it is one of the most favorite foods of those people, who want to shed some pounds. 100g of lettuce has only 10-15 kcal, 2.1 g Protein, 0.5 g fiber and 3 g Carbohydrate. At the same time, lettuce has such important minerals and nutrients as potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, folic acids, Vitamin C, B1, B2, B5, B6, PP, E and especially Vitamin A. If you want to put off weight, you can eat plenty of lettuce, however, be sure that it is free from various chemicals and toxic elements, which are frequently used for more effective cultivation.

Lettuce is an effective green herbal remedy for depression. Since it has magnesium, chrome and folic acids, this plant has perfect relaxing, calming and soporific properties. In ancient Egypt and Rome, eating lettuce after all meals was a very common practice to stimulate sleep. Lettuce sap contains lactucarium, which has slight effects of opium and can calm down anxiety, nervousness, hyperactivity, arthritis pains and cough. In folk medicine, lettuce is used for its diuretic, anodyne, hypoglycaemic, carminative, sedative, emollient and other therapeutic properties.