Varieties of lettuce include: frisee, endive, arugula, iceberg, mizuna, radicchio, escarole, cress, baby beet greens, tatsoi, butterhead, romaine, oakleaf, looseleaf and mache. These types of lettuce are commonly used raw, especially in salads. Some, like iceberg, are very common, while tatsoi, mizuna and frisee are more exotic.
Although many types of lettuce exist, they belong to one of four main categories: iceberg, leaf, butterhead and romaine, states Good Housekeeping. In addition to these main groups, many lettuces come as hybrids.
In the United States, arugula is one of the most popular lettuces for salads, notes Epicurious. This green-leaf lettuce has a tangy, peppery taste. It originates in the Mediterranean region, and is also used as a base for many sauces, such as pesto.
Endive and radicchio have a slightly bitter taste, but radicchio loses that bitterness when cooked. Endive lettuce appears in long, white stalks, while radicchio heads are small, round and red. Endive has a silky texture and is popular for serving with dips, sauces and salsa, as its slightly curved leaves make ideal scoops.
Mizuna is native to Japan; like arugula, it appears as thin, green leaves that have a sharp, distinct flavor. This lettuce is often found in premade salad mixes, and is available at specialty stores too.
The butterhead lettuce family contains bibb and Boston lettuce. Both are smooth and have a mild taste. Their buttery texture makes them soft and chewy, but also delicate; they are often sold in plastic cases to avoid damage to the leaves.