The history of lettuce
Domestication of lettuce began with the Egyptians more than 3000 years ago, with tallish, deep-rooted, prickly plants, which quickly bolted to release seeds.
By 2000 BC pictures on Egyptian tombs showed lettuce plants resembling the upright romaine lettuce. These moved around the Mediterranean Sea to the Middle East and Europe.
Ancient Roman references refer to green, pale, white, tawny, reddish and purple tones – the full plethora of colours available today – and variations in texture from smooth to curly types.
A subspecies called celtuce, which formed crunchy, elongated, celery-like stems, travelled east, eventually reaching China.
As these lettuces travelled through Persia, Greece, Rome, Sicily and later into France, Germany and England, different types were adapted for different environments. Between the 16th and 18th century the modern butterhead, leaf and crisphead varieties were selected in Europe, especially Holland.
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