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Pirat lettuce is medium in size, averaging thirty centimeters in diameter, and has loose, folded leaves that form a dense head about the size of a softball. The crinkled leaves are dark green with crimson edges and may have some brown speckling, also known as pebbling. In the center of the head, the heart is white and crunchy, transitioning into a pale green hue as it connects into the leaf. Pirat leaves are crisp with a silky texture and have a complex and slightly bittersweet flavor.
Pirat lettuce is available year-round, with peak season in the winter through spring.
Pirat lettuce, botanically classified as Lactuca sativa, is a German, red butterhead variety that belongs to the Asteraceae family. Also known as Sprenkel and Brauner Trotzkopf, Pirat is an heirloom lettuce that can grow 15-20 centimeters in height and is valued by chefs and home cooks for its multi-colored, buttery leaves.
Pirat lettuce contains some vitamin C, vitamin A, copper, phosphorus, and potassium.
Pirat lettuce is best suited for raw applications as its texture and mild, subtle flavor complements bold ingredients and bright, fruity flavors. Pirat lettuce is commonly utilized as the principle ingredient within a simple salad alongside ingredients such as shallots, fennel, leeks, dill, blue cheese, tomatoes, apples, pears, beets, melon, nuts, bacon, basil, mint and dried fruits. It can be shredded, torn, or sliced in half and dressed in vinaigrettes. The leaves can also be removed from the base and used for color and texture atop burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and summer rolls. Pirat will keep up to one week when wrapped in paper towels, sealed in a container, and stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
Pirat lettuce is known by many names including Sprenkel, which means speckle in German, Pirat which means pirate in German, and Brauner Trotzkopf, which means brown stubborn-head in German, thought to reference the lettuce’s resistance to bolting. It is also a favorite butterhead variety among home gardeners as it resists downy mildew, tip burn, and white mold.
Pirat is native to the Alps and is a German heirloom lettuce that is a descendant of the French heirloom, Merveille des Quatre Saisons, also known as the Marvel of the Four Seasons. Today Pirat lettuce can be found at farmers markets and specialty grocers in Europe, Asia, and North America.