Iceberg lettuce, also known as crisphead lettuce, gets a bad rap as only being good for empty calories. But, in actuality, it has nutritional value, it's delicious, and keeps longer than most other lettuce types, making it a wise economical choice since it minimizes spoilage and waste.
What Is It Like?
Iceberg is a variety of lettuce with crisp leaves which grows in a spherical head resembling cabbage. It is considered one of the sweeter lettuce varieties like romaine and butterhead. Mature iceberg lettuce grows to about one foot in diameter. The leaves on the outside tend to be green and the leaves in the center go from pale yellow to nearly whitish as you move closer and closer to the center of the head.
Known for its mild flavor and firm, crunchy texture, iceberg lettuce is a good choice for salads, shredded in snacks, as a garnish, and on sandwiches. When used in combination with other varieties of lettuce, iceberg lettuce will contribute a pleasant crunch to salads.
Moreover, its uniform, pale-green leaves make iceberg lettuce an easy product to work with, making it a good choice for many recipes.
While iceberg lettuce is considered to be a food that does not offer much nutritional value, this is a misconception. This leafy green is a good source of fiber, potassium, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron. It has relatively few calories by weight because of its high water content.
How It Is Grown
Iceberg lettuce requires a long growing season and the plant prefers cool weather. It needs about 80 to 90 days to reach maturity and will usually mature just as the warm weather sets in. The plants can be started with seedlings inside and then transplanted outdoors once the threat of frost is gone. To transplant the lettuce, be sure to choose fertile, moist soil that drains well. Frequent watering will help the iceberg lettuce plants grow quickly.
Cooking With Iceberg Lettuce
While iceberg lettuce is most popularly used as a simple salad staple, there are other, more creative ways to use this classic ingredient.
- Spice up your salads and create a classic wedge salad. This classic combines a chilled wedge of iceberg lettuce, thick blue cheese dressing, and bacon for a tasty and surprisingly light salad.
- Move beyond salads and begin to embrace the lettuce wrap. Lettuce wraps are quick and easy to make and can be served as an appetizer, main dish, or even a snack for a festive party. Iceberg lettuce leaves are the perfect vessel to fill with tasty fillings from shrimp, sauteed pork, or chicken. Lettuce wraps can be completely customizable and are a fun and healthy meal option.
- Go raw, vegan, and gluten-free. Use iceberg lettuce leaves as you would tortillas to make raw food burritos.
- Try stir-frying iceberg lettuce for a Chinese side dish that's done in four, easy steps.
Store any unused iceberg lettuce in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp paper towel and sealed in plastic wrap or a zip-top bag. The iceberg lettuce should keep for four to five days before starting to wilt.