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Wild lettuce is small to medium in size, growing in loose clusters at the base of a thick, central flowering stalk. The dark green leaves average 15-45 centimeters in length, are oblong, elongated, smooth, and the margins vary from a smooth edge to deeply lobed with a prominent central vein. When scratched or cut, the plant will secrete latex which is a white, milky substance. Wild lettuce also produces orange blossoms that resemble that of a dandelion, with multiple flowers occurring on each plant. Wild lettuce is tender with a mild, earthy flavor.
Wild lettuce is available year-round, with a peak season in the winter through early spring.
Wild lettuce, botanically classified as Lactuca virosa, is a biennial belonging to the Asteraceae or sunflower family. Also known as Bitter lettuce, Prickly lettuce, and Opium lettuce, Wild lettuce thrives in grassy fields and along riverbanks in full sun and can grow up to two meters in height. Though its leaves are edible, Wild lettuce is primarily used for therapeutic purposes and a mild sedative called lactucarium is derived from the milky latex of its stem.
Wild lettuce contains vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, and fiber.
Wild lettuce is best suited for both raw and cooked applications, but caution should be taken as the leaves may have toxic effects when consumed raw. Young Wild lettuce leaves may be used raw in salads or layered in sandwiches or wraps. Mature leaves are tough and should be cooked to tenderize and to remove harsh astringents. The seeds can also be made into a mild oil that can be used in cooking. Wild lettuce pairs well with bacon, goat cheese, eggs, garlic, mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, and nuts. The leaves will keep for a couple of days when stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
Wild lettuce has been used in folk medicine for centuries as the sap is believed to have pain relieving properties. The lettuce can be traced back to ancient Egypt where hieroglyphics often depict Min, a fertility god, with the plant. It was also believed to be an aphrodisiac and a psychoactive substance in Egypt. Ancient Greeks and Romans used Wild lettuce as a cure-all to treat everything from menstrual pains to disease. Wild lettuce resin was also smoked by the Hopi tribe in Arizona before sleeping because they believed that it induced vision dream states.
Wild lettuce is native to Europe, the Middle East, and North America and has been used since ancient times. Today Wild lettuce may be found growing in the southern United States, Asia, and across central and southern Europe.
Recipes that include Wild Lettuce. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Edible Wild Food||Wild Pizza|
|Annie's Remedy||Wild Lettuce Relaxation Tea|