Let’s face it. Iceberg lettuce is kind of meh. I think of it is as crunchy air. Actually, I've never devoted much time thinking about it.
There is a reason that the only time I ever see it on a menu, it’s with the promise of a creamy coating of some, usually high-fat, tangy dressing topped with crunchy bacon bits and other sinful toppings like crumbled blue cheese.
So I order it.
The only time I ever buy it at home is so that I can use it as a neutral crunch vehicle for my take on Thai chicken lettuce wraps. Since the meat filling for the wraps is bursting with notes of both fish and soy sauce with a touch of sesame oil, and accompanied by other flavor bombs like Thai basil, spicy chilies, sliced radishes, cooling cilantro, and some sort of sweet and salty dipping sauce I’ve concocted, the iceberg lettuce is perfect because it doesn’t get in the way.
In short, I’ve never met an iceberg lettuce that I was really into on its own merits.
Until I ate the iceberg lettuce from Gotham Greens.
I was lucky to get a tour of their newest greenhouse on top of the Gowanus Whole Foods. It’s a gorgeous spot to sit, high above the hectic city streets, and watch greens grow, which might be my own personal form of meditative zen. When the iceberg lettuce was harvested and presented to me, it came out looking like a head of lettuce that was actually green. With actual wispy leaves. This was nothing like any type of iceberg lettuce I had ever seen in the grocery store. Where was the pale green, almost white, tightly wrapped ball of lettuce that more closely resembles a head of cabbage? There must be some mistake. But, I was assured this was iceberg.
And then, I tasted the Gotham Greens Iceberg lettuce and my mind was blown. It actually had flavor. Granted, it was not as crunchy as your typical closed head of iceberg, but it was still crisp with lots of nice coolness bursting through. And, in the balance, I would take the flavor over the stiff crunch.
The takeaway here is that the Gotham Greens version of iceberg is not the same as your typical head of iceberg. And that sometimes even the most humble of ingredients can surprise you, which seems more likely to happen if they are grown well, with pride and care. So, if you haven’t had the chance to try the Gotham Greens Blooming Brooklyn Iceberg, then you should not just because it’s local and responsibly grown by pretty amazing people, but also because it actually tastes good enough to eat straight up.
I write about food and I talk about food and I eat a lot of food. Co-writer of Amanda Freitag's, The Chef Next Door and Cooking in my Street Clothes by Missy Robbins (Fall '17). Co-founder of Family Meal, cooking classes that allow family members to learn, cook and eat together, taught by pro chefs.