The wild ramp, AKA wild leek, botanical name Allium tricoccum, is a flowering perennial plant that grows in clusters. It is a member of the Allium family along with onions and leeks
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A head of Wilshire lettuce is roughly the size of your palm and composed of tightly packed succulent leaves. The dark green, deeply lobed leaves are joined together in a close-fitting rosette shape that splays open at the top revealing the ornate curly edge of each leaf. They surround a pale yellow inner core that is tender and nutty with a texture like the center of a Brussel sprout. When eaten raw, Wilshire lettuce has a flavor much like any other oak leaf variety, slightly bitter with a clean vegetal finish. It develops a sweet caramelized flavor when cooked that is slightly smoky and nutty.
Wilshire lettuce is available year-round, with peak season in cooler months.
Wilshire lettuce is a unique variety of oak leaf lettuce that develops small compact heads of curly dark green leaves. Botanically classified as Lactuca sativa, it is a lettuce known for its sturdy texture yet delicate flavor. A relatively new seed variety, it is very slow growing and able to develop more complex nutty and sweet flavors. Wilshire lettuce is not yet a prolifically grown crop among farmers and usually considered a hard to find niche item for chefs.
Like most leafy greens, Wilshire lettuce is a good source of vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, folate and dietary fiber. Generally speaking, the darker the shade of green, the more nutrient dense the leaf.
The versatile nature of Wilshire lettuce lends it to both raw and cooked applications. The crunchy leaves may be separated individually by removing the central core and then treated as a simple salad green. The compact heads also take well to grilling, sautéing and searing. They may be cooked as a whole head or better yet, split in half to expose maximum surface area for marinating and caramelization. To fully penetrate each layer of the curly leaves, brine the heads in a salt water solution for up to thirty minutes and then drain thoroughly before cooking. Store Wilshire lettuce in the refrigerator away from ethylene producing fruits, such as apples, melons and tomatoes.
Wilshire lettuce is a variety of oak leaf which is a descendant of wild lettuce. Origins of the earliest wild lettuce seeds are traced back to the Mediterranean region of central Asia. Historical evidence from ancient Egypt even shows hieroglyphics depicting Min, a fertility god, with the plant because it was believed to be an aphrodisiac. Today’s modern variety of Wilshire lettuce may be grown year-round hydroponically or seasonally in temperate and Mediterranean climates.