Distinctly opposite attributes were ascribed to lettuce in its earliest days. Ancient Greeks and Romans valued the milky substance secreted by cut lettuce as a sleep-inducer and mild sedative, able to cool sexual urges. Conversely, ancient Egyptians associated lettuce consumption with male virility, giving lettuce as an offering to Min, the (always well-endowed) god of fertility and sexuality.
A less-racy tidbit concerns “Iceberg” lettuce, which earned its name in the 1920s when it was transported by wagon through the U.S., carried in heaps of ice that made the wagons look like icebergs.
While a vast number of lettuce variations are available, these “umbrella terms” encompass the more common U.S. lettuces:
Look for leaves that are heavy and crisp, avoiding any spotted, wilting and slimy leaves (if it grosses you out in the store, you probably won’t want to eat it at home).
Try to purchase lettuce right before you use it—its high water content means that it can’t be kept fresh for long. Wrapping it in plastic and storing it in the coldest part of the refrigerator will make it last for a few days.
Apples, bananas and pears emit an ethylene gas that makes fruits and vegetables over-ripen. Avoid keeping lettuce near these fruits, as they can cause the leaves to go bad quickly, often becoming smattered with brown spots.
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