Nutrition Corner: Buy leafy greens from the farmer

Nutrition Corner

Mary R. Ehret

The farmers markets have opened and fresh locally-grown vegetables are available for sale. Lettuce, a leafy green comes in four varieties. Romaine, Butterhead, Crisphead, and loose leaf are all varieties of lettuce that can be found at the market. Locally-grown lettuce, however, has stiff competition.

Romaine has the most Vitamin A and lutein of all the lettuces. Lutein may protect us against some age-related eye disorders. Butterhead varieties include Boston and Bib. These lettuces have more of a buttery and mild taste. Crisphead is the more popular variety of lettuce. One type of Crisphead and the most popular is Iceberg. Unfortunately, it has the least amount of nutrient than any other type of lettuce. The loose leaf variety does not form a head. It has a light and mild flavor. Red, green and oak leaf are the most common.

Flavor is the pre-eminent reason to buy leafy greens from farmers markets. Convenience, however, is a big deterrent.

Today, grocery store refrigerated shelves are lined with convenient-style packages of lettuces ready to tear open and fill the salad bowl in five minutes or less. It’s easy, fast and desirable for busy families. Unfortunately, this gives stiff competition to farmers markets.

I took another look at convenience and wondered if there really was a difference in taste between convenience and locally-grown Romaine lettuce.

After purchasing Romaine lettuce at a local farmers market, we did taste a difference. Our family’s vote was in favor of the farmers locally-grown Romaine.

Here are a few tips to wash and ready lettuce for easy use — almost like tearing open a bag and filling the salad bowl.

• First it’s important to refrigerate lettuce shortly after bringing it home from the market. Keep a cooler bag in the car and zip it shut for the warm summer days.

• Remove the stem and place lettuce leaves in the sink filled with cool water. Slightly move the lettuce around to lose any dirt and let it fall to the bottom of the sink. Rinse and place in a colander.

• After drained, place in plastic container with tight-fitting lid or plastic bag. Add a dampened paper towel. Tilt container or bag to let out any additional water. Refrigerate.

• When ready to make your salad, remove the leaves and tear into bite-sized pieces. Add your favorite salad vegetable and enjoy.

Taste the difference in locally-grown vegetables. Enjoy the flavors while local vegetables are available.

Try this salad. Add sliced grilled chicken or drained canned tuna and make it a meal in itself.

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons canola oil

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (1 large or 2 small limes)

1 teaspoon garlic (peeled and minced)

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the salad:

1 head Romaine lettuce (washed, patted dry with paper towels and torn into bite-sized pieces)

2 large tomatoes (diced)

1 red onion (finely diced)

6 radishes (thinly sliced )

1 cup of thinly sliced red cabbage

To make the dressing:

Put the oil, lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper in the small bowl and mix well. Lemon juice can be used instead of lime juice.

To make the salad:

Put the lettuce, tomatoes, onion and radishes in the mixing bowl and toss to combine. White onion can be used instead of red onion. Pour the dressing over the lettuce mixture and toss. Serve right away.

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at

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