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Food glossary

Lettuce and salad leaves

Lettuces and salad leaves

There are many different varieties of lettuce and salad leaves available. When buying lettuce look for fresh, blemish-free leaves and avoid those that droop or wilt. Buy ready mixed salad leaves or choose your own selection of lettuce and salad leaves to make a mixed salad, full of different flavours, textures and colours.

Fresh herbs such as coriander, basil or parsley can also be added for extra flavour and texture. Serve a dressing with the salad, but only add it at the last minute, just before serving or the leaves will wilt. Available from May to October.

To store: Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

To prepare: Rinse under cold water to remove any dirt and use the leaves whole or shred.

Baby leaf spinach

One of the most popular salad leaves, baby spinach is soft, yet thick with a pleasant blandness.

Uses: It combines well with olive oil dressings and is delicious with egg, tomato and lentil dishes. It works well in warm salads, with grilled cheese, meat or crispy bacon.

Cos

The elongated leaves of this variety make it easily recognisable, it has a firm texture and a subtle nutty flavour.

Uses: The classic lettuce for Caesar salad with garlic, croutons, eggs and Parmesan cheese.

Frisée

These feathery, curly bitter salad leaves are a member of the chicory family and are also known as curly endive (see Endive). The leaves range in colour from yellow-white to yellow-green. Available all year.

Uses: In salads, serve with a selection of other leaves and a well-flavoured dressing to counteract any bitterness.

Gourmet aromatic herb salad

A freshly prepared mixture of distinctively flavoured leaves, including green oak leaves, baby lollo rosso, rocket, chervil and coriander. The leaves are washed and ready to eat.

Uses: Serve as a side salad with one of the ready prepared fresh salad dressings sold in Waitrose. Or serve mixed with cubed cheese, cooked meat or fish and sprinkle with pine nuts or sunflower seeds for a main course salad.

Iceberg lettuce

A crisphead lettuce with an excellent dense, crunchy texture and a pale green colour, it will keep fresh for up to 5 days.

Uses: Good in sandwiches and to add a crunch to mixed salads.

Lamb's lettuce

The small spoon-shaped leaves of this variety add interest to mixed leaf salads. It has a nutty flavour and is also known as corn salad.

Uses: In mixed salads, especially with potatoes and beetroot. Serve it with a mustard dressing to bring out its flavour.

Little gem

A small compact lettuce with crispy, round leaves. They have firm hearts and a distinct flavour.

Uses: In Waldorf salad with celery, apple, walnuts and mayonnaise.

Mizuna

Similar in appearance to rocket, this Oriental leaf has a hot, mustardy flavour.

Uses: In salads and stir-fries.

Radicchio

With its distinctive pinky, red leaves radicchio adds a splash of colour to any bowl of salad. It is a member of the chicory family, although it has a less marked bitter flavour. Its leaves have a chewy texture similar to cabbage leaves.

Uses: In salads and as a garnish for a variety of savoury dishes.

Red mustard

A red or green Oriental leaf with a mild mustard flavour.

Uses: In salads and noodle dishes, particularly good with steak and seafood.

Red oak leaf

A loose-hearted lettuce with deeply indented leaves - shaded and splashed with red, it has a soft texture.

Uses: Include in a green salad with a simple French dressing or add to stronger-tasting leaves for well-balanced tastes.

Rocket (Roquette)

A strong, peppery leaf with jagged-edged indented leaves and a pleasant bite. Because of its strong flavour, a little goes a long way.

Uses: It goes well with Mediterranean ingredients such as Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. Add to salads or hot pasta, serve with goat's cheese or use as a garnish.

Ruby chard

Related to spinach, ruby chard has bright red veins and stems. It has a glossy, soft texture and a sharp taste.

Uses: Good with sweet peppery or bitter leaves and creamy yogurt dressings.

Sweet romaine

A sweet lettuce with long, thin leaves and a crisp mid-rib. It should be left whole or torn into small pieces rather than being cut with a knife as this turns the edges brown.

Uses: An ideal base for a mixed or simple lettuce salad, great with creamy dressing.

Wild organic rocket

Wild organic rocket leaves are smaller than standard rocket leaves and have a stronger, peppery flavour. Wild organic rocket can be bought in Waitrose on its own, bagged washed and ready to dress or in a mixed-leaf pack.

Uses: It goes particularly well with goat's cheese but can also be included in pasta, fish or meat dishes.