Tight Head Lettuces: Cleaning & Storing

Cleaning and Storage

Farmer’s markets are still providing an abundant supply of lettuces. In this upcoming video series, we look at lots of different kinds of lettuces and how to clean and store them. We start with tight head lettuce. These lettuces grow in the shape of a ball with tightly bound leaves. Outer leaves that are wimpy or bruised, pull away and discard. Give a quick rinse and you’re good to go.

Iceberg Lettuce


Let’s start with the ubiquitous Iceberg lettuce. This was the only lettuce available when I was a kid. We had it in every salad and on sandwiches. It’s not a bad lettuce, just a little boring in comparison to so many others that have more flavor and color.

Iceberg has a light green exterior color and is almost white at the center. The flavor is mild, which makes it such a perfect host for rich, creamy dressings like Blue Cheese or Thousand Island, a classic steakhouse salad with crumbled bacon bites!

Steakhouse salad



Radicchio is a bitter Italian lettuce that is primarily red with white veins. It is crisp, crunchy and can be served cold or grilled. I like to chop the leaves and serve along with arugula and endive, also known as a Tri-Color Salad. These three lettuces are bitter and a balsamic vinaigrette is most commonly served as the sweetness of the balsamic complements the bitterness of the leaves.

Belgian Endive

Belgian Endive

I’ve included Belgian Endive in this group. The leaves are tightly bound and cleaning and storing are the same as for Iceberg and Radicchio. The Belgian endive is a delicate lettuce with pale leaves from growing underground. The edges of the leaves begin to brown quickly. Buy and use within a day or two. It’s another bitter lettuce and can be used in salads or as a vehicle for a spread, such as chicken salad or a blue cheese spread, for hor d’oeuvres. In the video we discuss using the leaves whole or chopped.


To store tight head lettuces, place a damp paper towel in the bottom of a plastic container or sealable plastic bag and place the cleaned lettuce on top. Remove the air and seal. The Iceberg and Radicchio will last a good week. The Endive should be used within a day or two.

Watch the Tight Head Lettuces video here.




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