The pillar of a classic tossed salad, lettuce is enjoyed the world over as a crunchy, salad staple that’s used as the foundation for a brilliantly healthy meal. But despite its everyday nature, lettuce has a few intriguing qualities which you may have previously overlooked!
Ancient roots in history
Believe it or not lettuce was first cultivated long, long ago by the ancient Egyptians. The plant was once a weed, whereby its seeds were used to produce oil; however the Egyptians changed all this by growing it for the goodness of its leaves and make it a staple of their diets. Soon enough lettuce spread to the Greeks and Romans – the rest is history!
A cornerstone of a wholefood diet
Unlike many fruits and vegetables, lettuce is unable to be frozen if you’re looking to make a salad and therefore must be consumed fresh. The fact that it’s eaten raw so widely means that it provides us with far more micronutrients which may have lost through the process of cooking.
The world’s biggest grower
If you have an allotment or a little plot in your garden you may have thought about becoming self-sufficient and growing some of your own produce. If that’s the case you’ll be hard pushed to catch up with the Chinese… In 2013 China produce a whopping 13.5 million tonnes of lettuce, with the second largest nation being the United States with just over 3.5 million tonnes. That’s a lot of salad!
The origins of “Iceberg”
We’ve all had the maddening experience of salad spoiling early if it’s not properly refrigerated and the people at the beginning of the 20th century were no different! Californian’s came up with an ingenious method of keeping their lettuce fresh during transportation when fridges weren’t available: train carriages carrying the lettuces were stuffed with large amounts of ice and by the time they reached their final destination, workers would open the doors to find icebergs floating along the top.
Aid your sleep cycle
If there’s one thing we know about food it’s that if you eat enough of it you can guarantee you’ll be dozing off in no time. Ditch the large portions and opt for lettuce instead! Did you know that lettuce contains lactucarium, a milky fluid known for its sedative and analgesic properties, of which can help contribute to a better sleep.
A weapon against cancer
If you’re looking for a good reason to get more salad into your diet then listen up. Research shows that leafy greens such as kale, spinach and lettuce contain a variety of the antioxidants beta-carotene and lutein, of which are thought to help limit the growth of certain cancer cells.
Got you hungry? Check out these great lettuce based salads – super healthy and full of flavour!