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What's in Lettuce?
Lettuce is in the composite
family, and therefore is a relative of daisies, chrysanthemums, and thistles.
If you let them bolt in the heat, they will send up a shoot with small
yellow flowers on top, like the horrible wild lettuce that is a weed in
But we don't usually allow lettuce
to flower unless we are producing lettuce seed.
Once they flower, lettuce stops making large leaves, and becomes bitter
from alkaloids in the milky juice that they produce when they start to flower.
We grow lettuce in cool weather to discourage bloom.
Commercial lettuces have been bred
to produce large leaves in a variety of colors and patterns.
Some form heads and some don't. There
are 4 main types of lettuce: Romaine
or Cos lettuces, loose leaf lettuces, Butterhead lettuces, and Iceberg lettuces. The last two types form cabbage-like heads.
Of course, iceberg is the most common lettuce in restaurants and stores.
There was an interesting item on
public radio's "Living on Earth" program last Sunday (May 4).
It was a report about recent studies that have found the rocket fuel,
perchlorate, contaminating lettuce and other food crops.
At risk are plants that have been watered by the Colorado River in
Arizona and California. Most of the
lettuce in grocery stores is from those states.
According to the story,
perchlorate can interfere with the normal production of thyroid hormones in
developing organisms. Babies, who
rely on the hormonal system to trigger development, particularly brain
development, might not have a sufficient supply of thyroid to develop properly
if exposed to too much perchlorate.
I wonder how many babies eat lettuce? Or would they be exposed to
perchlorate in mother's milk if their mothers ate lettuce?
If you are interested, you can
find the article at: http://www.livingonearth.org.
Search the archives for an item titled "leafy toxins".
The issue is apparently controversial.
Well, I don't know if that news
will encourage anyone to buy lettuce at the local Farmers' Market, where our
irrigation water is (hopefully) not contaminated with perchlorate or anything
But here is something that you
will find in lettuce and other greens: Vitamin A.
According to USDA figures on the composition of foods
), all lettuces are 94 - 96% water, and they contain 12 - 18 calories per 100
grams. But compare Vitamin A in
different kinds of lettuces, measured in IUs in 100 grams of each:
Pretty strong argument for
the specialty lettuces, don't you think? Our
salad mix is full of them.
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September 14, 2002
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