Plastic wrapped, large round balls of iceberg lettuce were always present in my childhood fridge. However as I got older my beloved iceberg was replaced by romaine, spinach, arugula and even bitter greens. Turns out I'm not the only who turned their back on iceberg. Although it is still the nation's most prominent lettuce, iceberg has taken a back seat to other varied greens instead.
In 2006, 174,600 acres of iceberg lettuce were harvested in the United States, down from 198,500 acres in 1998, the first year for which U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics were available.
During the same period, the amount of harvested romaine lettuce increased from 36,450 acres to 61,000 acres. Green and red leaf lettuce harvests increased from 46,220 acres to 71,100 acres.
So why the sad slide into lettuce oblivion? At one point, iceberg was the only lettuce robust enough to make the supermarket journey without being damaged by ice. In fact, it actually received its name from the ice-filled train cars which shipped lettuce out. However, now that transportation and farming technology has advanced, more delicate greens - which once had to be consumed closer to home - can make the journey as well.
To entice customers, the country's largest lettuce supplier (Tanimura and Antle) is packaging its iceberg lettuce in plastic patterned with baseball stitching and including recipes for wedge salads printed on baseball cards.