When you bite into a salad filled with soft, buttery greens, you're probably getting a mouthful of the delectable Bibb lettuce. This light and somehow rich-tasting leaf can be found all year round and makes an excellent vessel for gluten-free tacos and wraps, and can make a side salad sing with very little effort. It's more expensive than other lettuces, but once you start using it, you'll understand and appreciate why.
What Is Bibb Lettuce?
Named after John Bibb, a lawyer who developed this variety in Kentucky out of his Frankfort home, Bibb lettuce is a tender green that almost melts in your mouth like butter. Hence, the butterhead lettuce variety. While Bibb created this green, originally called "limestone lettuce," in the 1860s, it wasn't commercially available until a century later and took decades after that to become popular.
Now, this is one of the two most sought after forms of butterhead lettuces, the other being Boston lettuce. The leaves on this featured ingredient prove smaller and tend to remain light, springy green rather than turn reddish-purple like Boston's leaves can. All butterhead lettuces have large, loose heads that look a lot like a blooming rose, the tighter it is, the younger the plant.
What To Do With Bibb Lettuce
If you can refrain from eating fresh Bibb lettuce right off the head, do the next best thing and put it in a salad. Because the leaves are light and tender, you don't need heavy dressing, if you want any at all. It can easily be the star of the dish, and pairs well with crumbles of blue cheese, shaved carrot, a sprinkle of buttermilk dressing, and chopped up pecans.
Also, use the large and bendy leaves to wrap food in. We're talking shredded chicken, grilled kababs, marinated strips of steak, roasted mushrooms, and more. This ingredient is a popular alternative to tortillas for those going low-carb or gluten-free, and, unlike more crunchy lettuce, it doesn't snap apart when you bend it.
What Does Bibb Lettuce Taste Like?
In essence, Bibb lettuce tastes like green butter, only a butter that runs a little crunchy rather than oily. The flavor proves mild enough that other ingredients overshadow the nuances, but when eaten alone, it can satisfy the craving for richer foods. There's a slight sweetness too, making it a great green to pair with roasted pork, pineapple, and blue cheeses.
Bibb Lettuce Recipes
Use Bibb lettuce in a variety of ways. From wraps to salads to side dishes, there's a place on the table for this ingredient and you can substitute it for any butterhead lettuce, most tender greens, or in places where a large, single leaf is required.
- Thai Lettuce Wraps With Chicken
- Asparagus Butter Lettuce Salad With Pistachios
- German Salad Dressing for Lettuce Salad
Where To Buy Bibb Lettuce
Due to the popularity of this green, you can find Bibb lettuce any time of year in many grocery stores. Often, it comes in a clamshell or some sort of protective covering. This helps keep the tender leaves from bruising, which they do easily, especially when handled often. Butterhead lettuces also tend to have a neat bundle of dirt and roots attached to the base of the head, something that maintains its freshness. In fact, it's best to get a whole head that has the roots, that way you know it's in peak form.
You may also see the lettuces plucked and put into ready-to-eat boxes either blended with other tender greens or solo. These usually are the baby butterheads and hold crispness well in this form. Just keep in mind because the leaf proves more fragile than romaine or iceberg, it will go bad faster.
If purchasing a whole head of Bibb lettuce, don't remove the root system until you're ready to eat it. Store in the shell or the crisper drawer with a damp cloth lightly pulled around it. You can pluck the leaves right off the head as needed, and it will keep well for about a week. Butterhead lettuce that doesn't have the root system won't last as long. Prolong the life of any of your greens by keeping cool and slightly damp.
The main varieties of butterhead lettuce are Bibb and Boston. The only real difference between the two is the size of the leaves and the color, Boston tends to be reddish, where Bibb is light green. Some say Bibb proves sweeter, but that's an observation based on the eater's personal taste.
Though some say Bibb lettuce melts on the tongue like butter, this certainly is not true. It does have a melty feeling though, however, the actual leaf will stay whole until you break it apart. There's also no extra fat in this lettuce despite the name, it just tastes good enough to make you feel guilty.