Star Ingredient

Star Ingredient of the Week: Little Gem Lettuce

This week’s Star Ingredient should be highly approachable to most everyone…it’s the Little Gem Lettuce.  Every time I see the name for this lettuce I immediately start singing it to the tune of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” (and now you can thank me for putting that song in your head).  Now it’s time for me to sing its praises!  Like all of our Stars, this isn’t your ordinary veggie…it takes lettuce to a whole new level. 

What’s So Special About Little Gem Lettuce?

Well besides getting you to sing the name to a Prince song (again, you can thank me for putting “Little Red Corvette” back into your head), Little Gem Lettuce can be described as a combination of Butter and Romaine lettuces.  That’s because it was actually developed over in France from a variety of each of those lettuces.  Which explains why it’s crisp like Romaine, yet has a buttery texture.

Another fun fact…its botanical name is Lactuca sativa (well, all the lettuces are classified as that) which means it’s in the Daisy/Sunflower family, Asteraceae…a good thing to know in case you’re ever on “Jeopardy.” Little Gem is also called “Sucrine” (French for “sugar”) or Sugar Cos and did we mention yet how cute it looks?  It’s like a small-size head of Romaine but rounder and only ½ the size. Spring is its peak season since its VERY cold tolerant.

But Wait…There’s MORE!

Besides having tons of flavor friends (meaning it goes well with almost any veggie, fruit, meat or dairy item you pair it with), each serving of Little Gem lettuce is high in vitamins A, C and K.  Yep…another “ACK!” veggie!  Plus, it’s a good source of calcium, potassium, iron and dietary fiber.  It’s also uber-low in calories which makes it a dieter’s dream veggie!

Easy To Store and Easy To Use!

Little Gem lettuce is best kept refrigerated in your crisper drawer.  Chef Diana recommends washing and prepping your lettuce before storing in the fridge because it can lose a lot of life overnight if not treated properly.  If you cut the lettuce head into wedges, it makes it easier to clean, store and portion out.  Check out her whole technique on cleaning lettuce:

Cut your lettuce in half lengthwise, if it is large cut each half into quarters. And trim any brown spots on the leaves. 

  1. Submerge the wedges into cold water and swish around to dislodge dirt. 
  2. Place in a colander bottom side up, and let drain for 10 minutes. 
  3. Either use the washed wedge or store. 
  4. Using a clean kitchen towel, lay a wedge on one side of the towel. Then fold up the bottom of the towel over the bottom of the lettuce, then roll the towel over the lettuce until covered. Repeat with the rest of the lettuce. 
  5. When you need to use, simply unroll the lettuce you need and keep the rest in the fridge!

Properly stored it can last up to 10 days.  The long shelf life makes it a PERFECT salad ingredient to keep on hand.  Especially since it’s full of nooks and crannies that make great little pockets for capturing salad dressing. You can use Little Gem lettuce for any recipe where you would use romaine or butter lettuce like Caesar or Waldorf Salads.  

The size and shape of the leaves also make it great for sandwiches, too.  But why stop there?

Cut the head into sections and grill or pan-fry to get more flavor.  The leaves are the perfect size and firmness to use to scoop guacamole, hummus, poke or chicken salad.  Their ruffled texture will pick up any dip or dressing.

Are You Ready To Take Little Gem Lettuce For A Spin?

Yep….3rd time’s the charm!  Now you’ll be singing it for the rest of the day…and hopefully trying it out soon, too!  If you’re getting a Market box this week from us, you DEFINITELY will have the opportunity!  Be sure to check out the recipes Chef Diana has come up with to make this week’s Star Ingredient really shine!

-Johnny Kat