Lettuce | Marul
Lettuce has been harvested for thousands of years. It is believed that the first wild lettuce, a variety of prickly lettuce, appeared as far back as 4,500 BC. The earliest known specimens of lettuce resembling the modern day varieties of romaine and cos lettuce were discovered along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast on the island of Kos. Although it is not clear whether the varieties of lettuce found on Kos predate the use of lettuce in Egypt, lettuce has been coveted in the Mediterranean region for centuries. Lettuce was even depicted on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs dating back to 2,700 BC. Rather than consuming lettuce, the ancient Egyptians celebrated the oil extracted from lettuce seeds as an aphrodisiac. Additionally, the leafy plant was a symbol for Min, the Egyptian god of fertility.
During the reign of Roman Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD), lettuce was popularized as an accompaniment to a meal. Served as first course, it was believed that lettuce would stimulate appetite. Served at the end of a meal, lettuce was said to promote digestion. Later, during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II (408 to 450 BC), gardens were cultivated along the western wall of Istanbul’s old city (once known as Constantinople). The gardens included artichokes, figs, flowers, herbs and a variety of long-leaf, crispy lettuce called yedikule. Named after the Yedikule Fortress that once formed part of the city walls, the lettuce is still grown and celebrated today.
In Turkey, lettuce is most typically served in salads. Additionally, fish is often served with arugula or salads of fresh mixed greens.
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