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Posted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 5:50 am  
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Lettuce is regarded as the king of salad plants. It is most Popular of all the salad vegetables. It has rounded leaves upto 25 cms. in length and 15 cms. in width. Leaves and stem contain milky juice. There are several varieties of lettuce. They differ in color of the leaves, size and texture. The color of leaves varies from light to dark green. Broadly two varieties are generally used at table, namely, the loose‑leaf lettuce and the true head-lettuce. In the loose‑leaf lettuce the leaves hang on all side. The head lettuce is like a cabbage with the leaves drawn together.

Origin and Distribution

The center of origin of lettuce appears to be the Middle-East. The first records of lettuce as a vegetable in a long-leafed form are depicted on Egyptian tombs dated 4500 BC. It was used by the Persian royalty more than 550 years before Christ. Lettuce was cultivated as a salad plant by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Lettuce reached China in the seventh century AD. It was first used in England in 1520 and King Henry VIII is said to have conferred a special reward upon the gardener who devised the combination of lettuce and cherries for the royal table. Lettuce is comparatively a recent introduction into the tropics. It is now widely cultivated in India, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, the Caribbean, Central and South America and East, West and Central Africa.

Food Value
Lettuce is a live food with its rich vitamin content, especially the antiscorbutic vitamin C. It is bulky, low in food value but high in health value. It is rich in mineral salts with the alkaline elements greatly predominating. So it helps to keep the blood clean, the mind alert and body in good health.

Lettuce* Food Value
Minerals and Vitamins

Moisture 93.4%
Calcium 50 mg
Protein 2.1%
Phosphorus 28 mg
Fat 0.3%
Iron 2.4 mg
Minerals 1.2%
Vitamin C 100%
Small amounts of Vitamin B Complex 10 mg
Fibre 0.5%
Carbohydrates 2.5%
Calorific Value 42

*Values per 100 gms edible portion

The loose-leaf lettuce is considered a better food. It has the advantage of being more exposed to sunlight, thus providing it with a richer supply of vitamins than the head-lettuce in which the leaves are closed. Whatever quality of lettuce is selected for use, it should be ensured that it is fresh, crisp and green-leafed. The greener the leaves, the higher the vitamins.

Natural Benefits and Curative Properties
Lettuce contains several health-building qualities and many medicinal virtues. It has many essential values to the human body. It is very good for brain, nervous system and lungs. The raw juice of lettuce is cool and refreshing. The high content of magnesium in the juice has exceptional power to vitalize the muscular tissues, the nerves and the brain.

When making juice from lettuce for definite therapeutic purposes, it is best to use the leaves that are of the darker shade of green. The leaves which are inside the head of lettuce and have remained white should be discarded. The former are much richer in chlorophyll and other vital elements than the latter.

As lettuce is rich in cellulose, it increases the bulk of the intestinal contents and encourages peristalsis. It is, therefore, highly beneficial in curing chronic constipation.

Lettuce is beneficial in the treatment of insomnia as it contains a sleep inducing substance called "lectucarium". Lettuce juice has been likened in effect to the sedative action of opium without the accompanying excitement. According to Culpepper, the ancient English herbalist, the juice of lettuce mixed with oil of roses, applied to the forehead and temples, induces sleep and cases the head-ache.' The seeds of lettuce in decoction are useful in insomnia and wakefulness due to mental overwork.

Lettuce belongs to that group of vegetables which contain three per cent or less of carbohydrate. It is, therefore, among the important foods which can be prescribed for diabetes. It can be used freely by diabetics.

Lettuce contains considerable amount of iron and supplies a good form of vegetable hemoglobin. It can, therefore, be used as a good tonic food for anemia. The iron obtained in this way is absorbed by the body to a much greater degree than the inorganic iron tonic.

Pregnancy and Lactation
Eating raw lettuce has a highly beneficial effect during pregnancy and lactation. A very important nutritional factor, folic acid, contained in lettuce prevents megaloblastic anemia during pregnancy. In a series of experiments with lettuce, its useful effect during pregnancy confirms that mothers who had a regular use of lettuce were free from nutritional anemia. One particular benefit of lettuce eating is that it prevents habitual abortions. It is believed to have a great influence over the secretion of progesterone hormone. Eating lettuce with spinach, peas, asparagus and cauliflower increases the folic acid or vitamin B content of the food. It is estimated that about 300-500 mcg. of this vitamin is daily required during the last trimester of pregnancy. The deficiency of which causes megaloblastic anemia.

Lettuce is normally used in the raw state as salad. The leaves are also cooked as greens, especially loose-leaf lettuce. It will cook in almost no water at all. The water which clings after washing will suffice. It should be kept covered over a stove for the first few minutes until the juice starts flowing. It should then be cooked uncovered for about 10 minutes.

Lettuce leaves should be washed thoroughly before use as salad. They should be washed leaf by leaf. When thoroughly clean, they should be put repeatedly within the folds of a clean towel until the leaves arc completely dry.


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