Courtesy of The Chef's Garden

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Emerald Crystal Lettuce

Farmer Lee Jones / May 8th, 2012

Originating in South Africa, Emerald Crystal lettuce is one of the most beautiful and unique greens we’ve ever seen. Its leaves and stems are thick, crunchy, and juicy.

As most of our great ideas come about, we started growing Emerald Crystal lettuce upon the recommendation of a chef—Laurent Gras. After much research, we finally found the seed along with three other varieties.

The lettuce looks almost translucent and holds tiny beads of water-like crystals, keeping its appearance as if it has just been harvested. It has a cleansing, almost watermelon, essence to it and stands up well on a plate. Chef Jeff O’Neill of The Villa by Barton G (South Beach, Florida) considers it the perfect addition to his petite vegetable salad with tender greens, herbs, and leek vinaigrette.

“This salad has a rotating list of tiny vegetables and greens, depending on the season,” says O’Neill. “It includes red and gold baby beets, breakfast radishes, Romanesco, orange cauliflower, white asparagus, peas, currant tomatoes, fennel, bok choy hearts, baby corn, purple onions, wild rhubarb, and cucumber with blossoms still intact. This salad celebrates these wonderful vegetables, and showcases them as the gifts that they are.

“We pair them with an array of leafy vegetables (a variety of spinaches, chicory) along with lettuces and herbs. The Emerald Crystal has a crisp and creamy texture, and is one of the more resilient lettuces. It serves as a platform for the softer baby lettuces and delicate herbs. When the salad is composed, the vegetables are tossed in the leek vinaigrette, as are the sturdier greens, such as chicory and Emerald Crystal lettuce. The more delicate items are spiked into the salad to finish the dish.”

O’Neill also adds, “We have also used Emerald Crystal lettuce as a component to a hot dish: spotted skate wing sautéed golden brown and served on a warm salad of braised beluga lentils with curried diced vegetables, along with lemongrass shrimp and scallop ravioli. The dish is topped with a salad of Emerald Crystal lettuce, frisée, and basil, dressed with a sweet-and-sour shallot beurre noisette vinaigrette.”

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