When you go to the grocery store, you’re likely to find basic representatives of the various types of lettuce varieties: iceberg, Romaine, bibb, leaf. Hit up a farmer’s market, and suddenly your choices have expanded within each of those categories—who knew there were so many types of lettuce?
Well, there are, in fact, hundreds of varieties of lettuce you can grow—with delightful names like Tom Thumb, Green Deer Tongue, Red Rosie, and Igloo (which happens to be heat-resistant; go figure). As a home gardener, you will not run out of growing options with this many choices!
In North America, there are four main types of lettuce. Here’s an overview of the main types of lettuce and some representative members of each category:
Butterhead: This type of lettuce includes bibb and Boston lettuce. This type forms loose heads with oily leaves. You can pick the leaves as they grow, or harvest the whole loose head at once.
- Black Seeded Simpson
- Four Seasons
- Winter Density
Crisphead (Iceberg): This is the big, heavy, round head of lettuce that is often the foundation of salads. It has a high water content and (usually) a low flavor level. But there are some varieties with flavor to rival the best loose-leaf lettuce!
- Ice Queen
- Red Iceburg
- Great Lakes
- Tom Thumb
Looseleaf: As its name describes, this lettuce grows with lots of loosely bunched leaves. This type is a favorite for mixed greens salads; using multiple types of looseleaf lettuce makes for quite a colorful and flavorful salad.
- Red Salad Bowl
- Green Ice
- New Red Fire
- Oak Leaf
Romaine (Cos): Famous for Caesar salads, this type of lettuce grows in long, upright heads. It’s also popular as an addition to sandwiches. Some people even use it as a replacement for bread, taking advantage of the long leaf’s cupped shape to hold everything.
- Cosmo Savoy
- Green Towers
- Little Gem
- Parris Island
Other Lettuce Types
As is common in the classification of plants, there are some gardeners and botanists who will further divide these categories to get a little more specific. So, you might see references to French or Batavian lettuce, which is part butterhead, part crisphead.
Celtuce, or stem lettuce, is grown in China for—you guessed it—its stem. The leaves are discarded because they have a high latex content—not exactly tasty. You might be able to find stem lettuce at an Asian market; it’s not commonly grown in the U.S.
Which type of lettuce have you grown? Do you have a preference? Please lettuce know.
I’ve settled on the Romaine types. I like the thick, flavorful leaves and the strong ribs in each. I’ve enjoyed Green Ice, Jericho and Super Jericho. Right now, Teton and Parris White Cos are looking mighty good out-back, too. Tm.