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Romaine Lettuce Market Summary


Image: PJ 5156/

Romaine Lettuce Market Overview

Romaine lettuce is known by many names, including Cos lettuce, Roman lettuce, and Manchester lettuce.
Although romaine is the most common name in North America, this variety will occasionally be referred to as Cos lettuce. Cos refers to a Greek island located off the southwestern coast of Turkey, where this lettuce variety is said to have originated. Romaine lettuce is one of the oldest cultivated vegetables.
Romaine Lettuce Seasonal Availability Chart

Types & Varieties of Romaine Lettuce

Romaine is an elongated, heading type of lettuce with pronounced, firm ribs. A cool season crop, types and varieties will vary in color (green or red) and how tightly the leaves close. Leaves are referred to as ‘self-closing’ or ‘loose closing’ depending on whether they curl inward at the top to form a head.
Romaine hearts are the tender, yellow interior leaves known for their mild, sweeter flavor.

The Cultivation of Romaine Lettuce

Romaine requires nutrient-rich, well-drained soil and can be direct seeded or transplanted. Due to its shallow roots, drip irrigation is the best way to maintain moisture. Mulch can help reduce weeds and regulate soil temperature.

Pests & Diseases Affecting Romaine Lettuce

Pests to watch out for include aphids, armyworms, beetles, crickets, cabbage loopers, cutworms, leafminers, leafhoppers, thrips, whiteflies, and wireworms.
Tipburn can be caused by several factors, including variety, soil conditions, and temperature fluctuations. Leaf margins can become damaged and susceptible to decay.
Pink rib is prevalent in over-mature lettuce and warm temperatures in storage. Ribs will take on a pink hue.
Brown stain, as its name suggests, presents with yellow- or reddish-brown spots and stains on ribs and may expand and darken in time.
Soft rot is caused by bacteria and results in a translucent, slimy breakdown of infected tissue. Trimming outer leaves, rapid cooling, and low temperatures can reduce development and spread.
Other disorders and diseases of concern include big vein, botrytis grey mold, bottom rot, downy mildew, leaf drop, mosaic virus, and powdery mildew.

Storage & Packaging of Romaine Lettuce

Harvest is labor intensive and lettuce is either packed ‘naked’ or wrapped or bagged. Rib breakage can occur during harvest and packing, resulting in browning and higher susceptibility to decay. If product is harvested early in the morning, when temperatures are lowest, it is more vulnerable to rib damage.
A steady temperature of 32°F with 95% relative humidity will optimize shelf life for up to 3 weeks. Romaine can tolerate slightly higher temperatures during transit and handling, lacking other complications (such as ethylene gas).
Romaine is sensitive to ethylene and damage can appear as discolored spots. These are generally larger and less defined than russet spotting on iceberg lettuce. Variety can dictate susceptibility. Common containers are bushels or cartons holding about two dozen heads.
References: Purdue University, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, University of California Vegetable Research & Information Center, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, USDA.

Grades & Good Arrival of Romaine Lettuce

There is only one grade for romaine lettuce, U.S. No. 1, and there are no grade standards for Canada.
Generally speaking, the percentage of defects shown on a timely government inspection certificate should not exceed the percentage of allowable defects, provided: (1) transportation conditions were normal; (2) the USDA or CFIA inspection was timely; and (3) the entire lot was inspected.
U.S. Grade Standards Days Since Shipment % of Defects Allowed Optimum Transit Temp. (°F)
10-5-2 5
There are no good arrival guidelines for this commodity specific to Canada; U.S. guidelines apply to shipments unless otherwise agreed by contract.
References: DRC, PACA, USDA.

Romaine Retail Pricing: Conventional & Organic
Romaine Retail Pricing: Conventional & Organic Chart