Lettuce has been cultivated for thousands of years and there is no longer the wild version of Lactuca sativa. Well duh, sativa does mean cultivated, but listen, some ancient Egyptian horticulturist probably took an edible “weed” and started cultivating it. We can only guess.
I grabbed a couple of last year’s seed catalogs…you know the ones you study in the middle of winter…and one catalog listed thirty-six varieties of Lactuca sativa and another listed one hundred forty-six varieties. Yikes! That’s enough to make a small market farmers head reel. “Which ones should we grow this season for our mini greens?” I feel their pain. I can’t imagine even remembering all the different names of the varieties. And why does it make me giggle that iceberg lettuce is from the same lineage. I should be kinder to iceberg I suppose. I mean I’ve eaten a lot of it over the years and remember fondly the wedges of iceberg lettuce covered in Russian dressing that my mom would sometimes serve. Yum!
In Arizona Lactuca graminifolia or grassleaf lettuce can found in the mountains of central and southeastern Arizona from 5,000’ to 8,000’ in elevation. That’s a nice elevation to visit in the summer and you can search for this relative of the ancient and modern Lactuca sativa.
The photos are mine of the plant and flower of grassleaf lettuce up in the Chiricahua Mtns.