Red and Green leaf Lettuce
Red and green leaf lettuces are the most popular leaf lettuces, and the ones you'll readily find at the market. Both have very soft curly leaves and a semisweet taste. Red leaf lettuce is softer, sweeter, and also more fragile than the green. It makes a good salad, but it wilts and turns black very quickly, especially at the red tips of the leaves.
Green leaf lettuce is a little coarser and not quite as sweet, but it's a bit crisper. I love it on sandwiches.
Supplies from California and Florida are available year-round. Local leaf lettuces are usually in season in May and June.
You don't want to see any dark green or brown slime on leaf lettuces - a sign that the head will deteriorate very quickly. Look at the rib to make sure it's not discolored. As with iceberg and other head lettuces, the butt should be white to light brown, and there should be no pink color on the ribs, which indicates the lettuce has had too much rain and will rot quickly in your refrigerator.
Red leaf lettuce is probably the most fragile of all the lettuces. The tender red edges of the leaves deteriorate rapidly and should be used as soon as possible after purchase. Storage presents a challenge. You can store is as you would other lettuces, but for better keeping try washing the leaves carefully in cool water, draining, then layering them in paper towels or clean dish towels to absorb the excess moisture. Gently roll or fold them loosely, then either store in the crisper drawer or seal in a plastic bag. Some people claim that tender greens like leaf lettuce keep better if you put the leaves in a plastic bag and capture as much air as possible before sealing the top tight, making a sort of balloon. I've also had good success putting chopped ice in the bag before sealing. A deep plastic bowl with a snap-on lid works well for leaf as well as head lettuces, the new perforated plastic storage bags also work well. Whichever method you use, don't count on more than two or three days for red leaf lettuce, four or five for green leaf.
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