LETTUCE - COS LETTUCE
sativa, variety longifolia
Also known as: Cos, Roman lettuce, Manchester lettuce.
is the American term for this long leaved lettuce, also
called cos or cos lettuce (mainly with British-speaking
peoples) because it is said to have originated on the
Greek island of Cos (Kos), off the coast of Turkey in
the Aegean Sea (also the birthplace of the physician
Hippocrates). It's original home is western Europe and
the eastern Mediterranean area. Romaine has been cultivated
and eaten cooked or raw for almost 5,000 years and may
very well be the oldest form of cultivated lettuce.
Egyptian tombs reveal paintings of lettuce with long,
pointed leaves, resembling romaine. It was known to
the Romans, who usually ate lettuce cooked, as Cappadocian
lettuce, and was called Roman lettuce due to the Romans
belief in its healthful and healing properties. According
to Pliny, the emperor Augustus Caesar is said to have
put up a statue to honor its healing abilities after
being cured of a serious illness. A white latex oozes
from its leaf base and the thicker ribs of older, larger
leaves and is reflected in the first syllable of its
Latin name, Lactuca, which means milk. Lettuce juice
was used as a medicine by many ancient herbalists.
in the 14th century when the Popes of the Roman Catholic
Church temporarily moved from Rome to Avignon, they
brought this variety of lettuce with them, calling it
Avignon lettuce. The earliest English name for it was
Roman lettuce, around the 17th century. The source of
the English romaine is from the French laitue romaine,
Italians call it lattuga romana.
commercial terms, romaine is the second most important
type of lettuce, iceberg lettuce being the first. See
the recipes under Caesar Salad for the ultimate use
of this popular lettuce. Appropriately invented by a
man named Caesar!
Romaine is a member of the daisy family Compositae which,
although the second largest family of flowering plants,
contributes only a few food plants (including also chicory,
endive, escarole and dandelion). It is a cultivar of
the common lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and is distinguished
by an elongated head; dark green, long, narrow, crisp,
stiff leaves and a coarse texture, with a distinctive
rib almost to the tip of the leaf. These thick ribs,
especially on the older outer leaves, have a milky fluid
which is unpleasant, so they should not be used, nor
should the leaf-tips, which can be bitter. (Although
actually, these dark green outer leaves are the most
nutritious). The interior leaves are paler in color,
and more delicate in flavor. There is also a milder
tasting variety with red tipped leaves and, a sweet
romaine, which is even sweeter than regular romaine.
Romaine lettuce matures in 70 to 75 days. It is slower
to bolt (go to seed) than other varieties of lettuce,
and also ships fairly well. Most of the romaine consumed
in the United States is grown in Florida. Other important
sources are California, Arizona and Canada, and of course
local growers in warm weather. It is available year-round.
The most popular cultivars are 'Paris Island Cos"
and 'Valmaine'. Romaine grown in the open have a much
better flavor than those grown in hothouses.
Handling & Storage:
Usually packed 2 - 3 dozen per case. Average yield 65%.
heads with any signs of rust; avoid oversized butts;
avoid older plants with large, strong milky ribs. Choose
heads that are cut close to leaf stems and are free
from decay and browning.
romaine as for any other lettuce. The ideal temperature
should be 33º - 35ºF. Do not allow the temperature
to go below 32ºF., as this will damage the leaves.
By the case, be sure to keep box tops closed. The waxed
cardboard helps keep in the moisture. At home, store
the unwashed, whole heads in plastic bags to retain
natural moisture, and keep crisper. Uncut, whole heads
of lettuce retain nutrients best. Surface water from
washing encourages bacterial growth. Romaine will keep
for 7 to 10 days this way. Keep away from apples, as
ethylene gas they give off will turn the romaine brown.
Like all lettuces romaine has a vary high water content
and very few calories (about 10 calories per cup). Generally,
the darker the green, the more vitamins and minerals
(beta-carotene, calcium and iron, etc.) So it should
be no surprise that romaine is the most nutritious of
all lettuces. Romaine is an excellent source of vitamin
C (more than 5 times that of iceberg lettuce).
article is from Chef James Ehler of Key West, Florida.
is a webmaster, cook, chef, writer and (like me) a self-confessed
computer nerd. He is the former executive chef of Martha's
Steak & Seafood Restaurant and the former Reach Hotel
(both in Key West), the Hilton Hotel in Fayetteville,
Arkansas, and the New Bern Golf and Country Club, North
is now webmaster and cook at the Blue Heaven Restaurant
in Key West while he works on his Food Encyclopedia
(five years so far). It is well worth paying a visit
to James' food reference website which is a useful resource
well worth Bookmarking - to visit either website just
click on their title:
Food Reference Website
Blue Heaven Restaurant, Key West, Florida
James T. Ehler, 2001
All rights reserved
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