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Firecracker lettuce is small to medium in size and is loose-forming lettuce with wavy, curled edges. The leaves are smooth, pliable, thin, and glossy with the base of the head being pale green, transitioning into a deep burgundy towards the edge of the leaf. The edge of the leaf is also curled, wavy, and jagged giving the head a frilled or ruffled appearance. Firecracker lettuce is lightweight and crisp with a bitter, sharp, and bright flavor that is somewhat of an acquired taste.
Firecracker lettuce is available in the late winter through spring.
Firecracker lettuce, botanically classified as Lactuca sativa var. Firecracker, is a lightweight, loose-leaf lettuce belonging to the Asteraceae family. Firecracker lettuce is a cut-and-come-again variety, meaning the young, outer leaves can be harvested and the plant will continue to grow more leaves throughout the season. The name Firecracker eludes to both the lettuce's coloring and sharp flavor and is most commonly used by chefs in salad mixes. It is also a favorite home gardener's lettuce as it grows optimally without constant care.
One of the most notable characteristics of Firecracker lettuce is that it contains one of the highest levels of anthocyanins versus other red lettuce varieties. Anthocyanins are health-boosting antioxidants found in red pigmented plants, having some of the strongest physiological effects of any plant compounds, and are known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Firecracker lettuce is best suited for fresh applications as its sharp flavor, and unusual color lends itself best to salad mixes. Its bold flavors can also be absorbed by rich pasta, farro, quinoa, or barley-based dishes, and the lettuce should be added shortly before serving. Firecracker lettuce pairs well with sweet, cool, rich, nutty and bold flavors such as apples, pears, persimmons, bacon, creamy cow cheeses, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios, creamy dressings, mint, basil, fennel, anise, figs, dates, cooked eggs and grilled meats such as steak and lamb. The leaves will keep up to a week when stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
Firecracker lettuce has been studied for use on future space missions due to its high anthocyanin content. As space missions extend beyond Earth’s orbit, the astronauts will be exposed to higher amounts of space radiation. To combat this, anthocyanins are currently being researched and examined as they may be able to help cleanse the body of certain types of radiation. More research needs to be done, but Firecracker lettuce is a promising plant that may be able to one day help protect overall health in space.
The exact origins of Firecracker lettuce are unknown, but today the lettuce is found at specialty grocers and farmers markets in North America.
Recipes that include Firecracker Lettuce. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Two Peas and Their Pod||Vegetable Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce|
|Spinach Tiger||Roasted Salad of Spring Greens, Hazelnuts, Pecorino|
|Pinch of Yum||Firecracker Vegan Lettuce Wraps|
|Dine and Dish||Spring Salad with Orange Vinaigrette|