This summer I am taking a directed study course on arts reporting with assignments from Professor Teresa Moore and the Professor of Pop, Andrew Goodwin.
One of my first assignments was a food comparison exercise. I was to select and compare nine different types of salad greens, focusing on aspects like softness/crunchiness and sweetness/bitterness, among others. Here is what I found:
Heirloom Freckles Romaine Lettuce (from my own garden)
Freckles romaine lettuce -- an heirloom variety -- is oval, narrowing at the base of the stem. The leaves are smooth, slightly waxy and very thin, tearing easily. Their color is striking – pale green with blood-red freckles and a light pink stem. They taste grassy and nutty with a sweet finish.
FrisséeFrissée has thin pale-yellow branch-like stems off a thicker main stem. The jagged, narrow chartreuse green leaves on these branches curl around each other, adding to the tangle of aggressively bitter greens. The leaves are soft, but the stem is crunchy and rigid – this unusual structure makes it somewhat difficult to eat.
IcebergIceberg lettuce has waxy, concave round leaves with a ragged edge. These leaves hug closely to one another, the foremost leaves conforming to the layers beneath it. Iceberg is pale green at the base and lime green around the edges of the leaves. The top of each leaf is soft and floppy and partially crunchy like Styrofoam towards the base. It is watery and sweet with a grassy finish.
SpinachSpinach’s fibrous, dimpled leaves are lobed, almost spade-shaped at times and grow a single leaf to each stem. They are medium green, dull and soft with fine veins. The stems are long, thin and crunchy. Spinach is nutty and slightly salty with a metallic finish. The stem has a greater concentration of this flavor. The smaller leaves seem to be bitterer.
Romaine LettuceRomaine is large, compared to other salad greens, with a round tip that becomes jagged on the edges near the base. It is leathery and slightly ruffled with many veins and a big stalk-like pale green stem. The leaves are a medium green with a mild flavor and only a hint of bitterness in the stalk. The leaves are soft relative to the crunchy stem.
RadicchioRadicchio is soft and flexible at the edge of the leaf with a stiff, crunchy stem. It has a waxy texture, similar to iceberg lettuce – rounded into a concave “bowl” with many ripples and folds. Radicchio is predominantly a saturated magenta with contrasting white veins and stem. Its taste is equally sweet and bitter.
Arugula (from my garden)Arugula has a thin, crunchy stem and soft, flat lobed leaves that increase in size up the stem and end with a round lobe at the top. These leaves are grass green with thin magenta veins and rimmed with the same bright pink color along the edge. Arugula is not overly toothsome, but it is fibrous like spinach. The taste of arugula is nutty and salty initially, followed immediately by intense bitterness and a peppery punch that moves in quickly and recedes slowly from the tongue. The flowers are also edible with a similar taste.
Red Mustard GreensMustard Greens are thin and feathery, like a quill, with a pointy leaf and edges that poke out like flattened green fused thorns. The leaves are flat towards the tip and slightly curly where jagged along the edge. The stem is crunchy with tiny prickly hairs that disappear towards the base of the leaf. Most leaves are a medium green with a yellow tone; however, some have a deep pink stem, much like radicchio, while some stems are predominantly yellow with a hint of pink. The flavor of mustard greens is intensely bitter (the magenta-stemmed ones appear to be more bitter than their yellow-stemmed counterparts), then nutty with an acrid finish.
Belgian endiveBelgian Endive’s leaves are very pale – almost white – yellow with light fuzz (like one finds on a peach). This fuzz is denser on the top of each leaf. The edge of the leaf is soft and tears easily. The stem is thick and crunchy and blends into the thin leafy portion. The leaves fit tightly together like shingles to form a dense core and when pulled apart resemble hollowed out rabbits’ feet. Belgian endive is slightly bitter, although less so than frissée.
These are just a few of the many varieties of lettuce out there. Next on my agenda is to make three recipes using some of these greens. Stay tuned for that.