The Lettuce That’s Taking the Bay Area By Storm

Little Gem salad with spring veggies and Green Goddess dressing at Redd Wood in Yountville. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

No matter where you dine in the Bay Area, you’d be hard pressed to find a menu that did not have this particular lettuce gracing it.

Whether served cold and crisp in a salad or braised or grilled in a main dish, Little Gem lettuce is the new darling ingredient that chefs and diners just can’t seem to get enough of. Whether at Frances in San Francisco, Redd Wood in Yountville, Camino in Oakland or Mamacita in San Francisco, Little Gem is sure to be there front and center.

Who can blame chefs and diners for this obsession when Little Gem is such a perfect lettuce — a compact head ideal for serving one or two, with both soft and crisp leaves, and a sweet, mineral-y taste.

Learn how this fabulous heirloom hybrid of romaine and butter lettuces got its start in the Bay Area by reading my story in this month’s issue of Food Arts magazine.

More of My Recent Food Arts Stories: A Look at California’s Upcoming July 1 Ban on Foie Gras

And: The Transformation of the Michelin Three-Star Restaurant at Meadowood

And: The Making of Flour + Water’s Newest Project

And: The San Francisco Ritz-Carlton’s New Parallel 37

And: Honoring the Legendary Cecilia Chiang

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  • Dear Carolyn,

    I think this lettuce might be called something different in Australia although it looks a bit like chinese mustard greens or kai lan as it is called in Cantonese. Love a cold mayo dressing like that.

  • Huh, no wonder I’m seeing it everywhere. It’s the beet salad replacement!

  • Oh we bought this a lot when we were in London. I don’t know if we really get that here much though. They were lovely little lettuces though! 🙂

  • I’ve never heard of that type of lettuce before, but like what ChopinandMysaucepan said, it might be called something else here in Australia, or that we don’t even have them here. 😛

  • Wow. Just saw the link to your article on the California foie gras ban:

    Best article on the topic I have seen. Carolyn, you rock.

  • Moe: You are too kind! You made my day with that amazing compliment. That story was soooo much work to do. But worth the effort. Many thanks! 😉

  • This salad looks like a wonderful plate of food: freash & bright! 🙂 Yummm!

  • Carolyn, I am a huge fan of little gems and have been curious as to where those crispy and tasty beauties came from. I’m gonna hop over and read your article. Thanks!
    Have a good week:)

  • Nice story! I know I’ve heard the name of this lettuce before, and I know I’ve seen it on restaurant menus, but I don’t believe I’ve actually seen this in stores. I should look, though – it might be there, and I just haven’t bought it because I was looking for other lettuces. Good info – thanks.

  • I didn’t know it was a hybrid of romaine and butter lettuce. It’s such a perfect size though. No wonder it’s irresistible.

  • It’s shame – I’m going to pay more attention to names of vegetables so that I can join in this kind of conversation! It’s possible that I’ve been eating this Little Gems without realizing it is… xD

  • A very impressive article about Little Gem in the Food and Arts magazine. Lapped up every word and have got in on my list for seeds for next year. Love lettuces and grow all kinds in my urban garden. Love to read about the history of a seed. hear the story and find that it has survived!
    One for Biodiversity!

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