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The History of Iceberg Lettuce

the history of lettuce | Recipes

Even James Beard – the father of American gastronomy –was a fan, saying, “Many people damn it, but it adds good flavor and a wonderfully crisp texture to a salad .” (“It also keeps longer than other lettuces,” he pointed out.)

Iceberg lettuce until the 1930's was known as Crisphead lettuce.

Iceberg is only 1 of many types of Crisphead lettuce
crisphead lettuce actually has several other varieties, such as imperial, Great Lakes, vanguard and western.

Nutritional Data





How Crisphead lettuce became known as Iceberg lettuce

Bruce Church founder of Fresh Express, was responsible for popularizing the idea of shipping lettuce across the US continent from Salinas, California to the spots on the East coast. Using ice they carefully covered the heads of lettuce and shipped them

Year around and all the way as far as Maine, as the train pulled into each stop, folks would call out excitedly, "The icebergs are coming, the icebergs are coming!" The name would stick. Before that people had to depend on what you could grow locally and preserve from the gardens.



field of Iceberg Lettuce

Iceberg Lettuce Boycotted?

"There once was a time--before the arrival of mesclun, frisee, endive, spring mix, packaged salads, radicchio and arugula--when iceberg lettuce dominated the produce aisle. Quartered, shredded, its leaves pulled off and transformed into cups for canned pears, it knew no rival until the 1970s when Caesar Chavez called for a boycott to protest the working conditions of California lettuce pickers. Tastes changed, too. The wedge of iceberg drowning in a thick dressing was replaced with vinaigrette-tossed leaf lettuces (especially romaine) and smaller, more exotic "designer" greens, all more nutritional and more flavorful than the "neutral" iceberg. Iceberg--a head lettuce, as opposed to a leaf lettuce--is also known as "crisphead" lettuce since one of its chief virtues (some say its only virtue) is that it stays fresher longer than leaf lettuces."
---"MARKET WATCH 6/23: Iceberg Lettuce," Jeanne McManus, The Washington Post, June 23, 1999, Pg. F04


Short of heating up a TV dinner, there are few more blatantly retro gestures than ordering a wedge of iceberg lettuce covered in a thick, creamy salad dressing. The lettuce itself remains popular in the United States. It still accounts for 70 percent of the lettuce raised in California, but that share is declining (in the mid-1970's it was as high as 80 percent), and anyone dining at fancier restaurants around the United States might wonder if it hadn't disappeared entirely, displaced by frisee, dandelion greens, oak leaf, lollo rosso, exotic cresses, microgreens, sprouts -- anything, in short, that's green, has a leaf, and is not iceberg. But iceberg somehow manages to hang on. Steakhouses refuse to give it up. And in some very unlikely places, it has earned a strange kind of cachet..."It's one of those things that's synonymous with growing up in America," Mr. Otsuka said. "Everybody has a comfort level with it. Served cold, it's very nice on the palate, with a good crunch." Marc Meyer, at Five Points, anoints a wedge of the stuff with a modernized, Europeanized blue cheese dressing made with picon cheese from Spain, toasted almond slices and radishes...Despite its shortcomings, iceberg has always had its fans.

James Beard was one. "Many people damn it," he once wrote, "but when broken up, not cut, it adds good flavor and a wonderfully crisp texture to a salad with other greens." It also keeps longer than other lettuces, he pointed out. Flavor? Surely the iceberg stands supreme as the blandest of all greens.

Little pieces? Most Americans side with the prim instructions given in the first "Joy of Cooking." "Heads of iceberg lettuce are not separated," the directions read. "They are cut into wedge-shaped pieces, or into crosswise slices." The lettuce is a relative newcomer, and confusingly named. A lettuce that went by the name of iceberg was developed in the 1890's, and somehow the name resurfaced when new varieties of durable, easily shippable crisphead lettuce began emerging in California in the mid-1920's. In 1948, the iceberg we know today was born. Why iceberg? No one seems to know, although one popular theory holds that the name refers to the tons of ice that chilled it in the days before refrigerated rail cars.

The big, cold wedge is a cornerstone of American cuisine. It survives, and so do the sludgelike dressings that drape it like heavy velvet curtains -- the great, goopy family that includes blue cheese, green goddess, ranch and Thousand Island. I went for the wedge the other day at Del Frisco Double Eagle Steak House. It arrived under a lavalike green ooze, a creamily high-caloric green goddess dressing lumpy with tender bits of avocado....Michael Jordan's The Steak House...the wedge wore a blue cheese dressing...John Schenk, the chef at Clementine, tuned in to this particular frequency years before tony restaurants began playing with iceberg..."

"CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; An Offering to the Green Goddess," William Grimes,The New York Times, June 14, 2000, (p. F1)

Old Recipes for Iceberg Lettuce

One of the oldest recipes for iceberg lettuce salad is from a cookbook by Marion H. Neil
in 1916

They are very interesting, one uses the egg yolk to thicken the dressing.

Lettuce Salad and Roquefort Dressing

(1949)"Heart of Lettuce Salad

(1950)"Lettuce Salad with Roquefort Dressing

(1958)"Salade Subversive

(1963)"Head lettuce

Go here for these Recipes


The future of Iceberg lettuce

As we make choices meal by meal in countries around the world information is always coming at us via radio, TV , internet and printed material, and of course the best, which is word of mouth that you need to eat lo calorie, lo fat and high nutrition food.
We have always had advertising but the best minds are hired to get into your brain. Some have said that iceberg lettuce is akin to eating empty calories or cellulose.

However there is nutrition in this lettuce despite what some say. The chart is below comparing it to Romaine or Cos lettuce.

The good : This food is low in Sodium, and very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Iron and Potassium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate and Manganese.

The bad : A large portion of the calories in this food come from sugars.

Also Iceberg can accentuate inflammation.

This is according to







0.9 g

1 g


0.65 g

0.53 g


1.42 g

0.56 g


102 mg

116 mg


0.30 mg

0.46 mg


13 mg

16 mg

vitamin C

2 mg

11.3 mg

folate (total)

21 mcg

64 mcg

carotene (beta)

215 mcg

2456 mcg

vitamin A (IU)

361 IU

4094 IU

vitamin K

17.4 mcg

48.2 mcg

The fact that you get such a good crunch out the lettuce leads me to believe that it will be around.
The Iceberg wedge is such a classic that I believe steakhouses as well as households will be making this even when we are cruising around in jet cars.

Here is a picture of a Classic Iceberg Wedge Salad that
you simply top with Blue Cheese dressing, chopped tomatoes and bacon

To read more about the Classic Iceberg Wedge Salad go here


Here is a recipe for an Wedge salad that you can use either Iceberg or Romaine that has a very lo calorie and lo fat but REAL Blue Cheese dressing.

Romaine Wedge with Creamy Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing

Iceberg Lettuce Wraps

More Salad Recipes and Links

Cobb Salad

Caesar Salad








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