Lettuce, an ancient and humble superfood

Antonio Lozano with a selection of lettuce.
Antonio Lozano with a selection of lettuce. / Daniel Maldonado
  • This vegetable, which has been in use since antiquity, is promising some surprise developments in the future

Antonio Lozano, a farmer in Coín, specialises in growing ecological lettuce and cares for row upon row of this green, red and bicoloured vegetable.

Antonio has been in the trade for more than 20 years on the farm that he inherited from his father. Now his father would be surprised to hear that his son works with the Buchinger Clinic in Marbella, of which he is a supplier, in the search for ecological fertilisers capable of multiplying the concentration of nutrients.

"Some species of algae for example work very well as fertilisers, and something that I am delighted about are the sprouting seeds, which not only concentrate the flavour, but also vitamins and minerals, because germination is the first phase of seed development, and it contains all the nutrients that the plant will need to grow".

On his farm in Coín, Antonio Lozano grows up to 17 different varieties of lettuce. "Vegetables are like fashion. I am constantly looking at magazines and gastronomic articles, I go to agricultural fairs and, above all, I listen to the people who come to buy from me. In general, customers who buy for their families prefer the small hearts, which are very easy to prepare, or 'butter' type lettuces, which are more tender and sweet, I guess because children like them better .

"Besides sowing, fertilising and fighting pests, you have to be up-to-date and create recipes, give people some ideas. For example, not many people know that if you add a few leaves of lettuce to a vegetable purée at the last moment, you get a creaminess and a softness that you don't even get with potato. And it is also important to vary the seasonings. In winter, I like to prepare salads with hot vinaigrettes. For example, to the typical fried garlic dressing, I like to add sliced almonds".

Lettuce was first cultivated in the Mediterranean region around 5,000 years ago, and there is hardly any civilisation that hasn't eaten it. It has been eaten raw or cooked, preserved in brine (common in the Roman ages), and even cooked, covered with lard and tinned at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Now it is not just used for salads but also to make 'wraps' or for layers in salad lasagne, as well as being added to soups and stews.