Iceberg lettuce, also known as crisphead lettuce, is enjoyed for its mild flavor and crispness. It's a delicious addition to salads and perfect for lettuce wraps. This variety keeps longer than most other types of lettuce, making it a wise economical choice since it minimizes spoilage and waste.
What Is Iceberg Lettuce?
Iceberg is a variety of lettuce with crisp leaves that grow 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 white as you move closer to the center of the head.
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 be ready to harvest just as the warm weather sets in. It's available year-round in stores because it's grown in temperate climates like California and Arizona for the U.S. market. If you want to grow it at home, the plants can be started as 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.
How to Cook With Iceberg Lettuce
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, the uniform, pale-green leaves make iceberg lettuce an easy product to work with, so it's a good choice for many recipes, including those that are lightly cooked.
Preparing iceberg lettuce is not difficult. Begin by removing any outer leaves that are starting to wilt. You can either remove the core at the base of the head or cut around it, depending on its intended use. To loosen the core, cut a circle around the base, then give it a few sharp wacks against the cutting board. You can then peel off individual leaves for wraps or a bed of lettuce or cut the head into wedges and chop it up as needed for the recipe. Before use, rinse the lettuce under cold water. Dry it by patting the leaves with a towel, letting it air dry, or using a salad spinner.
Iceberg Lettuce Recipes
While iceberg lettuce is most popularly used as a simple salad staple, there are other ways to use this classic ingredient. Most recipes use the lettuce fresh and some require whole leaves while others will have you chop the head into wedges or smaller pieces. The lettuce can also be cooked quickly, as in a stir-fry, which retains the vegetable's crispness.
Where to Buy Iceberg Lettuce
Iceberg lettuce is one of the most common and inexpensive varieties of lettuce. It should be available as a full head at nearly any grocery store you walk into. Some stores have pre-cut wedges available and it's also commonly found in packaged salad mixes along with other types of lettuce.
When selecting iceberg lettuce, look for heads that have crisp, fresh-looking leaves. Avoid any that show signs of wilting or that are beginning to turn brown on the tips.
Store a whole head of iceberg lettuce in the refrigerator's crisper wrapped in a damp paper towel and sealed in plastic wrap or a plastic zipper bag. The leaves will absorb moisture from the towel and you can replace it if the leaves become soggy. Iceberg lettuce should keep for four to five days before it begins to wilt.
For cut lettuce, wash it thoroughly and remove any damaged leaves. Dry it using a salad spinner or let it air dry on paper towels. Wrap it in a dry paper towel and store in an airtight container or plastic bag in the crisper. Replace the paper towel if it becomes saturated to avoid slimy lettuce. Remove any wilted leaves as you notice them in order to keep the entire bunch as fresh as possible.
Nutrition and Benefits
It's a misconception that iceberg lettuce doesn't offer much nutritional value. This leafy green is a good source of calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, and vitamins A and C. It has relatively few calories by weight because of its high water content.