Where does the name Lettuce come from?
Lactuca sativa is the botanical name for common garden lettuce. The name is derived from the Latin word "lactis," meaning milk, since a milky white sap is found in the stems and thicker veins of lettuce plants.
Most of the commercial lettuce we get in the grocery stores comes from the same family as an ancient wild lettuce.
The wild lettuce Latuca Scariola or Serriola, also called Prickly Lettuce is shown at the right is probably similar to what is believed to be the first wild lettuces that appeared at least as far back as 4500 BC.
It grows like a weed and you may have broken the stem to get some of the milky sap out of it. It is believed this sap was used to help insomnia and to relieve rashes.
The leaves are bitter but edible, and the seeds were used to make lettuce oil.
Pictures of lettuce show up on ancient Egyptian tombs.
The Egyptians thought of lettuce as a fertility medicine,
Min shown at the left with lettuce behind him.
as well as using the oil
Egyptians grinding lettuce seeds for oil.
The History of Iceberg Lettuce
The Classic Iceberg Wedge Salad
Recipes and Links
Links and acknowledgements
Feeding America, historical cookbooks
Online Etymology dictionary
The Penguin Companion to Food