A SPOON, a wrap and that crunchy bite as you sink your teeth into a juicy burger - lettuce has always been the foundation for tasty salads.
But with recent innovations the humble leaf now offers much more.
Food trends have a major impact on the breeding direction of vegetable seed companies.
With the explosion of health conscious eating, lifestyle choices like vegetarianism, as well as the sharp and rapid increase in the popularity of burgers, Rijk Zwaan has been busy crafting new lettuce types.
These types not only meet these demands but are bred with sustainability in mind, such as resistance breeding, improving yields and reliability, and natural traits that help food to stay fresher for longer.
Rijk Zwaan's technical sales representative, Param Turna, said there are many opportunities to create new products that inspire the food service industry and excite consumers.
"We're excited about Crystal lettuces, which feature a flat, open leaf with a frilly edge and an iceberg crunch," Mr Turna said.
The leaf is specifically designed for single, loose-leaf service application such as sandwiches and burgers as it can retain its texture and crunch with both acidic and hot ingredients.
Crystal lettuce, "burger leaves", can also be grown hydroponically and since it's fit for purpose, it helps to reduce waste in food service.
- Young growers vie for Corteva Young Grower of the Year award
- Hort Connections secures more major sponsors
- Adam Liaw to address Hort Connections 2019
As consumers look for lighter food options, Rijk Zwaan has responded with its newest innovations: Crunchy Cos and Snack lettuce.
"Crunchy lettuces have leaves that are green on the outside and inside, are elongated like a Cos lettuce and have the crisp and crunchy bite of an Iceberg lettuce," Mr Turna said.
"These combined characteristics create an excellent taste experience."
The larger Crunchy Cos varieties like Coronita RZ and Verodita RZ are being used in place of tacos and flatbread wraps, offering healthier and gluten-free lettuce options for "on the go" products.
Hola, Snack lettuce
THE smaller Crunchy varieties have inspired a new trend called "Snack lettuce", a concept developed in Spain especially for the modern tapas market.
The concept was recognised with an innovation award at the 2018 Fruit Attraction, Spain.
Tendita RZ is the first variety developed with bite-sized leaves that are sweet and hold their unique spoon shape and crunch even with warm fillings or acidic toppings or dips.
"Snack lettuce is an extension of the Crunchy lettuce category and this positioning can start a new trend in Australia and earn a premium," Mr Turna said.
"Crunchy and snack lettuces are suitable for mechanical harvesting, both for heads and as a loose leaf product."
TWO of the greatest success stories in lettuce are the award-winning Knox trait, which delays oxidation in cut surfaces of lettuce, and the Salanova lettuce.
With just one cut at its base, a mature Salanova lettuce separates into multiple evenly proportioned, baby-sized leaves.
"Salanova has re-invigorated the Australian salad market with the recent launch of a butter leaf mix in leading supermarkets," Mr Turna said.
"This is an indication of peoples' eagerness for top quality leaves.
"We see huge growth in the pre-prepared salad segment and demand for bagged salads that are fresh and offer a range of leaves.
"So we're thrilled to have more lettuce varieties coming through that combine Salanova with Knox.
"Knox is a significant advancement for reducing waste and this extra boost to leaf quality means a better experience for consumers."
- Copy supplied by Rijk Zwaan.