Butter Or Bibb Lettuce
Butter Lettuce, most credit War of 1812 veteran Maj. John Bibb with creating what we call Bibb lettuce around 1870 in his greenhouse in Frankfort, Ky.
The small, jade green lettuce was extremely tender and thrived in the limestone-rich soil of central Kentucky.
In the early 20th century, several Louisville greenhouses began growing Bibb, called “limestone lettuce,” shipping it by truck to Chicago, Cincinnati, and other cities in the region.
Until about 1970, Kentucky led the nation in Bibb production. Bibb fell out of favor in the 1980s when salad bars become popular because Bibb’s tender leaves wilt when left out.
Now, most Bibb lettuce is grown hydroponically. Relatively little is grown in Kentucky.
Buy: Look for healthy-looking leaves with no blemishes or brown spots.
Store: If lettuce is wet when purchased, wash it and spin dry thoroughly. Store in an air-tight bag in the refrigerator for three to five days.
Prepare: Serve delicate Bibb lettuce with mild vinaigrettes. Avoid heavy dressings, which can make leaves limp and soggy.
Good for you: Generally, Bibb and other butterhead lettuces are better sources of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A and C than iceberg lettuce.
Professional treatment: Bibb lettuce has long been on the menu at Maisonette, downtown, where it’s called laitue de Kentucky and dressed with a vinaigrette.
At the Vineyard Cafe in Hyde Park, it’s the basis for the salad with caramelized pear, blue cheese, watercress, spiced pecans, and seasoned rice wine vinegar.
Growing Bibb / Butter Lettuce
Growing butter lettuce or Bibb lettuce is similar to any other kind of lettuce. The only difference is the space.
Some lettuces can grow intensively at close spacing, but it is better to allow for a minimum of 12 inches (30 cm) of space between Bibb plants.
This will allow for the formation of a distinctive loose-leaf head. Choose a sunny, well-drained location in the spring and fall. Plants should get a minimum of six hours of sunshine each day.
However, plants in warmer climates might need to be planted in partial shade to protect them from excessive heat. It is important to think about how temperature affects lettuce plants when growing them.
While lettuce is tolerant of cold and light frosts (although it can withstand them), ideal conditions for lettuce growth are found below 75 F. (24 C).
Higher temperatures can cause lettuce to turn bitter, and eventually, the plant will bolt and produce seeds. Butter Bibb lettuce plants need minimal attention during the growing season.
Regular watering is necessary for plants. However, ensure that they don’t become too wet.
Plants should reach maturity in 65 days if they are properly cared for.
Butter Lettuce Salad With Pickled Grapes, Toasted Pecans and Soft Goat Cheese
Required time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
* ½ cup pecan halves
* 1 cup pickled red and/or green grapes
* 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
* Juice of half a lemon
* ½ cup pickled-grape brine
* ½ cup olive oil, plus more to taste
* Freshly ground black pepper
* 2 large heads butter, Boston, romaine or mixed lettuces, torn
* 4 ounces soft goat cheese (optional)
How To Prepare
1. preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Level pecans on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Add mustard and lemon juice to a measuring cup containing brine leftover from making pickled grapes (recipe above), and whisk to combine. Add olive oil, whisk again to emulsify thoroughly, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Strain pickled grapes, reserving brine. Halve 1 cup grapes, return remaining brine and grapes to the container, and reserve for another use. Divide lettuce among six bowls or plates, scatter some halved grapes, pecans cheese over each portion. Whisk vinaigrette again and drizzle over salad. Grind pepper over each salad and serve.