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. The outer leaves can be a little wimpy and bruised, simply pull away and discard. Give a quick rinse and you’re good to go.

Watch the video here:


Iceberg Lettuce


Let’s start with that ubiquitous lettuce, Iceberg. 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 other lettuces 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 creamy dressings like Blue Cheese or Thousand Island, a classic steakhouse salad with crumbled bacon bites! (Bonus recipe below for Blue Cheese Dressing!)

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 (recipe coming soon). 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 and the edges of the leaves begin to brown quickly. Buy this and use with a day or two. The leaves are pale because it’s grown underground. 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 these 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.

Blue Cheese Dressing
Recipe type: Salad Dressing
Makes: 1 cup
This is a thick dressing. Add a tablespoon or two of milk if you like a thinner dressing. A classic steakhouse salad uses a wedge, ¼ of a head of Iceberg lettuce, drizzled with Blue Cheese Dressing and chopped bacon bits. Garnish with chopped chives and/or quartered cherry tomatoes.
  • ⅓ cup crumbled blue cheese, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • ⅓ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • pinch of salt
  1. Smear the blue cheese with the back of a rubber spatula to break it up.
  2. Stir in the mayonnaise, sour cream, juice, pepper and salt.
  3. Store in the refrigerator.




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