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 Carolina.
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
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