Lettuce - Cos Hearts (Little Gem) **Local**
Baby cos is a touch sweeter than whole cos and also has a finely bitter herb-like taste. It is also popular in salads, and can be braised, steamed, sautéed or grilled!
How do we make sure we provide top quality baby cos lettuce?
Simple – we grow it ourselves! Sam draws on three generations of horticultural experience to grow fresh, high quality and tasty cos lettuce. Baby cos are the hearts of whole cos lettuce, which are a perennial crop that we plant year round. We harvest when the leaves are crisp and turgid, the head is full in colour (generally the darker the leaves, the more nutritious the lettuce), and the head is firm and springy (very dense heads are an indication that the lettuce is overly mature and will taste bitter, very loose heads are an indication that the lettuce is immature and will not be sweet). We also make sure the head is free of any signs of decay (usually seen as decomposition patches on the skin), there are no yellow or wilting leaves on the plant, and the shape of the head is close to symmetrical. If all of these indicators are right, the cos heart will be perfect, every time!
Where do we source our baby cos lettuce from?
Baby cos is the heart of a whole cos lettuce. Most of our cos lettuce comes direct from our farm – planted, cultivated and hand-picked by Sam and the team. We harvest in the morning, while the cos lettuce is still crisp and fresh from the morning dew. When the conditions aren’t favourable to growing cos lettuce on our farm (due to seasonality, crop rotation etc), we source cos lettuce from farmers in areas with similar climatic conditions such as the Werribee region and the surrounds of Bacchus Marsh.
What is the best way to keep baby cos lettuce?
Baby cos lettuce is best kept in an airtight plastic bag in the fridge (optimal conditions are at 0°C and 95% relative humidity). Freeze damage will occur if the lettuce is stored below minus 0.2°C (meaning the lettuce will decay rapidly when returned to room temperature), so make sure your fridge is set at the right temperature. It’s also a good idea to store baby cos lettuce away from fruit – fruit emits ethylene gas, which will result in speedier lettuce decay (over-exposure to ethylene commonly results in a disease known as ‘russet spotting’, which is manifested as brown pigmentation in the lettuce leaves).
Baby cos lettuce nutritional information
Baby cos lettuce has the same nutritional value as the whole cos lettuce. It has about seven to eight times more beta-carotene, two to four times more calcium, and twice as much potassium as iceberg lettuce. It is also a good source of vitamin A and iron (the darker the leaves, the higher the nutrient level), and a solid source of potassium and thiamine, calcium, phosphorous, iron and vitamin C. Interestingly, lettuce contains a substance known as lactucarium (or ‘lettuce opium’), which is an opium-like substance recognized for inducing sleep in humans – this explains why the Romans and Egyptians used to eat lettuce after their dinner!
Serving tips and suggestions
It’s a good idea to wash the lettuce leaves before you serve them. A quick and easy way to do this is with a salad spinner.