Monday, 20 June 2016


Lettuce, is an annual plant of the daisy family Asteraceae. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable, but sometimes for its stem and seeds. Lettuce was first cultivated by the ancient Egyptians who turned it from a weed, whose seeds were used to produce oil, into a food plant grown for its succulent leaves, in addition to its oil-rich seeds. Lettuce spread to the Greeks and Romans, the latter of whom gave it the name lactuca, from which the English lettuce is ultimately derived. By 50 AD, multiple types were described, and lettuce appeared often in medieval writings, including several herbals. The 16th through 18th centuries saw the development of many varieties in Europe, and by the mid-18th century cultivars were described that can still be found in gardens. Europe and North America originally dominated the market for lettuce, but by the late 20th century the consumption of lettuce had spread throughout the world.

Generally grown as a hardy annual, lettuce is easily cultivated, although it requires relatively low temperatures to prevent it from flowering quickly. It can be plagued with numerous nutrient deficiencies, as well as insect and mammal pests and fungal and bacterial diseases. L. sativa crosses easily within the species and with some other species within the Lactuca genus; although this trait can be a problem to home gardeners who attempt to save seeds, biologists have used it to broaden the gene pool of cultivated lettuce varieties. World production of lettuce and chicory for calendar year 2010 stood at 23 620 000/23,620,000 tonnes, half of which came from China.

Lettuce is most often used for salads, although it is also seen in other kinds of food, such as soups, sandwiches and wraps; it can also be grilled. One variety, the woju (莴苣), or asparagus lettuce, is grown for its stems, which are eaten either raw or cooked. Lettuce is a rich source of vitamin K and vitamin A, and is a moderate source of folate and iron. Contaminated lettuce is often a source of bacterial, viral and parasitic outbreaks in humans, including E. coli and Salmonella. In addition to its main use as a leafy green, it has also gathered religious and medicinal significance over centuries of human consumption.

As described around 50 AD, lettuce leaves were often cooked and served by the Romans with an oil-and-vinegar dressing; however, smaller leaves were sometimes eaten raw. During the 81–96 AD reign of Domitian, the tradition of serving a lettuce salad before a meal began. Post-Roman Europe continued the tradition of poaching lettuce, mainly with large romaine types, as well as the method of pouring a hot oil and vinegar mixture over the leaves. Today, the majority of lettuce is grown for its leaves, although one type is grown for its stem and one for its seeds, which are made into an oil. Most lettuce is used in salads, either alone or with other greens, vegetables, meats and cheeses. Romaine lettuce is often used for Caesar salads, with a dressing that includes anchovies and eggs. Lettuce leaves can also be found in soups, sandwiches and wraps, while the stems are eaten both raw and cooked. The consumption of lettuce in China developed differently from in Western countries, due to health risks and cultural aversion to eating raw leaves. In that country, "salads" were created from cooked vegetables and served hot or cold. Lettuce was also used in a larger variety of dishes than in Western countries, contributing to a range of dishes including bean curd and meat dishes, soups and stir-frys plain or with other vegetables. Stem lettuce, widely consumed in China, is eaten either raw or cooked, the latter primarily in soups and stir-frys. Lettuce is also used as a primary ingredient in the preparation of lettuce soup.

Food-borne pathogens that can survive on lettuce include Listeria monocytogenes, the causative agent of listeriosis, which multiplies in storage. However, despite high levels of bacteria being found on ready-to-eat lettuce products, a 2008 study found no incidences of food-borne illness related to listeriosis, possibly due to the product's short shelf life, indigenous microflora competing with the Listeria bacteria or inhibition of bacteria to cause listeriosis.

Other bacteria found on lettuce include Aeromonas species, which have not been linked to any outbreaks; Campylobacter species, which cause campylobacteriosis; and Yersinia intermedia and Yersinia kristensenii (species of Yersinia), which have been found mainly in lettuce. Lettuce has been linked to numerous outbreaks of the bacteria E. coli O157:H7 and Shigella; the plants were most likely contaminated through contact with animal feces. A 2007 study determined that the vacuum cooling method, especially prevalent in the California lettuce industry, increased the uptake and survival rates of E. coli O157:H7. Salmonella bacteria, including the uncommon Salmonella braenderup type, have also caused outbreaks traced to contaminated lettuce. Viruses, including hepatitis A, calicivirus and a Norwalk-like strain, have been found in lettuce. The vegetable has also been linked to outbreaks of parasitic infestations, including Giardia lamblia.

In addition to its usual purpose as an edible leafy vegetable, lettuce has had a number of uses in ancient (and even some more modern) times as a medicinal herb and religious symbol. For example, ancient Egyptians thought lettuce to be a symbol of sexual prowess[43] and a promoter of love and childbearing in women. The Romans likewise claimed that it increased sexual potency.[52] In contrast, the ancient Greeks connected the plant with male impotency,[9] and served it during funerals (probably due to its role in the myth of Adonis's death), and British women in the 19th century believed it would cause infertility and sterility. Lettuce has mild narcotic properties; it was called "sleepwort" by the Anglo-Saxons because of this attribute, although the cultivated L. sativa has lower levels of the narcotic than its wild cousins. This narcotic effect is a property of two sesquiterpene lactones which are found in the white liquid (latex) in the stems of lettuce,[29] called lactucarium or "lettuce opium".

Lettuce is also eaten as part of the Jewish Passover Seder, where it is considered the optimal choice for use as the bitter herb, which is eaten together with the matzah.

Some American settlers claimed that smallpox could be prevented through the ingestion of lettuce, and an Iranian belief suggested consumption of the seeds when afflicted with typhoi Folk medicine has also claimed it as a treatment for pain, rheumatism, tension and nervousness, coughs and insanity; scientific evidence of these benefits in humans has not been found. The religious ties of lettuce continue into the present day among the Yazidi people of northern Iraq, who have a religious prohibition against eating the plant.

No comments: