Most of the commercial lettuce we consume today comes from the same family as the old wild lettuce.
History and origin of lettuce
This vegetable was consumed over 2000 years ago and was also used as a medicinal plant in Rome, Egypt, Persia among other places.
The Romans used to eat it after an abundant dinner, just before bed to be able to sleep better.
There are engravings in Egypt estimated from 4,500 BC. In fact some sources name Egypt as the origin of lettuce because a bed of lettuce is the symbol of Min, the god of fertility.
Lactuca sativa is the botanical name that receives common garden lettuce. This name comes from the Latin word "lactis" which means milk since inside it we find a white milky sap between the stems and the thicker veins of lettuce plants.
Lettuce is a plant whose origin is situated to the south of Europe from where it expanded to the rest of the continent in the time of boom of the Roman empire.
The reality is that this is only a theory because its origin is not confirmed since some authors point towards India as origin while others place it in North America and the temperate zones of Eurasia.
The cultivated lettuce developed long ago in the Fertile Crescent, a historic region extending from the Nile to the Persian Gulf, a humid and fertile land where many early civilizations developed.
What we know for sure is that the medicinal use of lettuces is ancient as evidenced by their presence in the Capitulare de villis vel curtis imperii, an order issued by Charlemagne to claim their fields for cultivating a series of herbs and spices including wild lettuces, Predecessors of the current Lactuca sativa.
In the Middle Ages consumption declined but gained importance again in the Renaissance.
Coming from the Mediterranean area, lettuce was first introduced in America by Christopher Columbus when he sailed the great blue ocean in 1492.
Properties and benefits of lettuces
- Fibre provides a feeling of satiety and a slight laxative effect that facilitates weight control and helps prevent constipation.
- Its content in enzymes favours the digestions.
- It is diuretic and depurative thanks to its high water content and low sodium level that favor the elimination of toxins and waste from the body.
- Vitamins A, C and E exert an important antioxidant effect that neutralizes the effect of free radicals and protects against serious degenerative diseases.
- Lettuce is also a natural relaxant that favours sleep. It contains substances that help to relax the nervous system and to sleep.
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