Everything you need to know about good old romaine lettuce, from cutting and storing to using it in your favorite recipes!
Romaine lettuce has my heart….get it? But, it’s the truth, and that’s not just because it’s perfect for eating as taco shells. Romaine is a favorite of mine in the lettuce world for so many reasons – the great taste, the versatility, and the nutritional benefits!
What about you? Are you a romaine person? How well do you really know romaine lettuce after all? Today, let’s dive into everything there is to know, from the benefits and taste to how to cut and use it (like in my infamous Grilled Romaine Salad). It just may spark some ideas!
Romaine Lettuce Benefits
Did you know that the darker leaves, the more nutrients? Though all parts of romaine are green and good for you, those parts concentrate most of the minerals!
As a whole, however, romaine is a supplier of magnesium, calcium, potassium, and Vitamin C. It’s an all around great choice!
Romaine vs. Iceberg
It’s a classic argument. Which is better, romaine or iceberg? Though they’re main competitors in the lettuce world, they can usually be substituted for each other. They’re both used in a wide range of recipes, both being super crunchy, and they both supply a lot of water.
But the taste and nutrition of romaine vs. iceberg lettuce is a bit different! Romaine takes on more of a bitter flavor, while iceberg has a mild sweetness to it. And generally when it comes to leafy greens, the darker the color the more nutritious it is. The same holds true here!
What it Tastes Like
Romaine lettuce has a very refreshing and juicy taste. It’s very crisp, and the taste is a bit bitter, though not too much. It’s not as sweet as iceberg, but it’s not as “grassy” as spinach. It’s just… good! And its crunchy texture makes it great for using in so many different recipes.
How to use Romaine
Romaine is kind of like iceberg in that the uses are nearly endless. Unlike kale or chard which you wouldn’t want to use on just any type of dish, romaine can be used frequently! The obvious use is salad, and I actually do love a good, crispy romaine-based salad from time to time. You can go savory or sweet with your toppings.
Other uses include wraps (with which you can use the lettuce in the wrap or as the wrap), sandwiches, tacos, smoothies, soup, spring rolls, or rice bowls… heck, you can even grill it!
How to choose your romaine
Choosing the perfect package of romaine is pretty easy — just look for the darkest bunch! The darker the romaine hearts, the better it is to eat. If it’s lighter, you may find it to be extra bitter. Similarly, make sure it’s firm, but not too firm. It needs to feel “crunchy” in your hand.
Best Way to Cut Romaine Lettuce
Cutting romaine is simple. If using on a sandwich or as a taco shell, simply rip off a leaf and either fold it in half (sandwich), or keep it intact to add with taco fillings. If slicing, here’s the best method!
- Remove the outer leaves from the heart. I usually go 1-2 layers down depending on the quality.
- Cut the heart in half lengthwise, and then cut out the root on either half.
- Slice the halves down the center a second time.
- Turn your cutting board sideways and slice the leaves into strips.
Romaine lettuce stays good for up to about a week when stored properly. Keep it in the crisper; in a plastic bag is best. If already cut and washed, make sure it’s dry before storing.
Salads made with romaine should stay good for 1-2 days when stored in the refrigerator. It’s best to keep dressing stored separately to prevent sogginess.
Where it’s grown & harvested
Growing romaine lettuce in the US occurs mostly in Arizona and California. The hot, dry temperatures are great for growing and cultivating the crispiest, tastiest romaine! This is actually very interesting, considering romaine thrives in cool temperatures too. A lot of production actually takes place in China!
Romaine And E.Coli
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which, in this day and age I wouldn’t blame you — in fact, I’d be jealous), you’ve heard about a romaine recall. This happens once in a while and is often do to possible E. coli contaminations. What’s up with that? Why is it so common?
The truth is that romaine isn’t actually any more susceptible to E. coli than other greens (yes, even your beloved kale). People just eat more of it! When more is produced and sold, it’s more likely to be the type that gets recalled. Greens are grown in open fields, and like other veggies and fruits grown in this way, are subject to contamination from bad water, bacteria, and other things in the environment. This is why proper washing is so important!