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Romaine or cos lettuce is a variety of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. var. longifolia) that grows in a tall head of sturdy leaves with firm ribs down their centers. Unlike most lettuces, it is tolerant of heat.

Romaine lettuce
Starr 070730-7911 Lactuca sativa.jpg
Romaine lettuce
Species Lactuca sativa
Romaine lettuce heart's cross-section


Origin and etymologyEdit

In British English, it is commonly known as "cos lettuce", and in North America as "romaine" lettuce.[1] Many dictionaries trace the word cos to the name of the Greek island of Cos, from which the lettuce was presumably introduced.[2] Other authorities trace cos to the Arabic word for lettuce, khus خس [xus].[3]

It apparently reached the West via Rome, as in Italian it is called lattuga romana and in French laitue romaine, both meaning 'Roman lettuce', hence the name 'romaine', the common term in North American English.[3]


In North American supermarkets, romaine is very widely available year-round.[4]

The thick ribs, especially on the older outer leaves, should have a milky fluid which gives the romaine the typically fine-bitter herb taste.

Romaine is a common salad green, and is the usual lettuce used in Caesar salad. Romaine lettuce is commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Romaine, like other lettuces, may also be cooked, for example braised or made into soup.[4][5]

Ritual useEdit

For 3000 years from at least 2,700 BC Cos lettuce was associated with the Ancient Egyptian god of fertility, Min, for its resemblance to the phallus.[6]

Romaine lettuce may be used in the Passover Seder as a type of bitter herb, to symbolise the bitterness inflicted by the Egyptians while the Israelites were slaves in Egypt.[7][8]


Romaine lettuce
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 72 kJ (17 kcal)
3.3 g
Dietary fibre 2.1 g
0.3 g
1.2 g
Vitamin A equiv.
290 μg
Folate (B9)
136 μg
Vitamin C
24 mg
33 mg
0.97 mg
30 mg
247 mg
Other constituents
Water 95 g
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

As with other dark leafy greens, the antioxidants contained within romaine lettuce are believed to help prevent cancer.[9]

Food safety issuesEdit

From November 2017 through January 2018, romaine was identified as being linked to illness in at least 17 people in 13 states of the U.S. and 41 people in Canada with 1 death.[10] Public Health Agency of Canada issued a statement on December 28, 2017.[11] Consumer Reports advised Americans not to consume romaine lettuce on January 4, 2018.[10][12]


The day of 22 Germinal in the French Republican Calendar was dedicated to this lettuce, as "Romaine".[13]


  1. ^ Walker, Norman Wardhaugh (1970). "Cos or Romaine Lettuce Juice". Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices: What's Missing in Your Body?. Book Publishing Company. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, First Edition, 1893, s.v. 'cos'
  3. ^ a b Davidson, Alan (1999). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-211579-0. Cos lettuces are probably not named for the island of Kos but for the Arabic word for lettuce 
  4. ^ a b Bittman, Mark (2 April 2010). "The Charms of the Loser Lettuces". New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2018. 
  5. ^ Bittman, Mark (2 April 2010). "Braised Romaine Hearts". Retrieved 27 January 2018. (Registration required (help)). 
  6. ^ Smith, K. Annabelle (16 July 2013). "When Lettuce Was a Sacred Sex Symbol". Smithsonian Museum. Retrieved 27 January 2018. 
  7. ^ Bradshaw, Paul; Hoffman, Lawrence (August 19, 2000). "Towards a History of the Paschal Meal". Passover and Easter: Origin and History to Modern Times. University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN 9780268038595. 
  8. ^ Eisenberg, Ronald L. (2010). Jewish Traditions: A JPS Guide. Jewish Publication Society. p. 286. ISBN 0827610394. 
  9. ^ "AICR's Foods That Fight Cancer: Dark Green Leafy Vegetables". American Institute for Cancer Research. 
  10. ^ a b Fox, Maggie. "Stay away from romaine lettuce, Consumer Reports advises". NBC News. Retrieved 27 January 2018. 
  11. ^ Public Health Agency of Canada. "Public Health Notice – Outbreak of E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce". Retrieved 27 January 2018. 
  12. ^ "Consumer Reports warns against eating any romaine lettuce". Food Safety News. 4 January 2018. Retrieved 27 January 2018. 
  13. ^ Tooke, William (1855). The Monarchy of France: its rise, progress, and fall. London: Sampson Low & Son. p. 634. 


External linksEdit

  •   The dictionary definition of romaine at Wiktionary