There are about 30 different varieties. The leaves can be light or dark green depending on the variety (Winter Lamb’s Lettuce, for instance, has darker green leaves.)
Depending on the variety, the plant can grow 4 to 12 inches tall (10 to 30 cm.) All the plants are cold-hardy and have sweet, mild-tasting leaves.
Lamb’s Lettuce is a “cut and come again” lettuce for home gardeners: if you pick a few leaves off of one plant, it will keep growing. Despite this, the whole plant is usually harvested and sold intact to consumers. It is very hard to harvest by machine, so it has to be picked by hand, which explains why Lamb’s Lettuce remains one of the more expensive lettuces.
Select bunches with no yellow leaves. Smaller, younger leaves ones will be sweeter than more mature ones.
Bagged Lamb’s Lettuce is usually already washed. If it isn’t, wash and handle it gently — the leaves are easily bruised and crushed. To dry, don’t scrunch it up in paper towel or tea towel — pat it dry by hand, or dry with gentle whizzes in a salad spinner.
In addition to being used fresh, Lamb’s Lettuce can also be used in cooking. It can be chopped and used in soups, rice and egg dishes, or steamed and served like spinach. It will lose its colour, though. If you care about this loss of colour and have the time, and can be bothered, first blanch it for 1 second (sic) in boiling water, plunge it into ice water, then drain and proceed to cook with it.
1 pound lettuce = 450g = approx 6 cups torn
8 oz lettuce = 225g = approx 3 cups torn
2 oz shredded lettuce = 50g = 1 cup
8 oz shredded lettuce = 200g = 4 cups
Store unwashed in plastic bag in fridge for up to 4 days.
Lamb’s Lettuce has been cultivated since the 1600s. Before then, it was harvested growing wild in fields. Large scale growing and shipping started in Nantes, France, in the early 1800s. Eighty percent of French production still comes from region around Nantes
One of its synonyms in both French and English, “mâche”, comes from the French mâcher, meaning “to chew.”
McChesney, John. Mache: America’s Next Lettuce Love? National Public Radio morning edition, 5 August 2003.