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Classic Comebacks: Iceberg Lettuce

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Screenshot 2019 01 07 10.55.01
December 7, 2018

Remember iceberg lettuce? The Milhouse of the lettuce family—more crunchy and less “healthy” than its brethren—has long been overshadowed by the wishbone brittle that is kale and the satisfying, herbal nibble of romaine. Iceberg lettuce is "just crunchy water," according to Reddit. It has been maligned for decades, dubbed seasonless and placeless by Alice Waters, with no opportunity for redemption.

 

That is, until now. An iceberg hasn't made this many headlines since the takedown of the Titanic. Mixed greens lovers will either rejoice or be horrified at the news that sales of iceberg lettuce have skyrocketed in the wake of #romainegate. An E. Coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce took it out of the race, leaving a comfortable gap in the market for its uglier stepsister.

 

“In a week's time, the cost of a 24-count carton of iceberg lettuce rose anywhere from 168 percent to 119 percent,” CNBC reported. “Before the advisory, iceberg lettuce sold for $16.56 to $20.85 per carton. By Nov. 21, suppliers fetched between $36.65 and $39.56 for the same box. On Nov. 26, the day the advisory was lifted, the price had climbed to $44.35 to $45.65.”

Though the widespread shame romaine has felt has since evaporated—the romaine recall is no longer in effect—iceberg has enjoyed a return to its 1940s rate of popularity. Butterhead was the preferred lettuce in Great Britain and Europe pre-’40s, but there was no predominant lettuce type in the continental U.S. After the ’40s, iceberg shot into the 95th percentile as it was easy to grow in the northern States due to its heat-sensitivity. It ruled as the pallid queen bee.

 

The jury is still out on which type of lettuce heads the market now, but iceberg likely won’t remain on top for long. (It’s sadly proven that it is one of the least nutritional lettuces available for consumption). However, the brief, watery crunch of late 2018 was nice while it lasted. Back to pretending that kale is a "chip."

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