Corn Salad, also known as lamb’s lettuce, is a small annual plant of the V. Locusta species. It is recognised by a delicate nutty flavour and soft, textured dark green leaves similarly shaped to baby spinach. Corn salad is also commonly referred to as mâche, fetticus, feldsalat, nut lettuce, field salad, and Rapunzel. In French cuisine, corn salad is also sometimes called doucette or raiponce.
The plant is recognised as being a powerhouse of nutrients and is consumed both for its flavour as well as its numerous medicinal benefits.
History of corn salad
Corn salad, or lamb’s lettuce, has been cultivated and eaten in Europe for hundreds of years. It was originally foraged in Europe by peasants. The royal gardener of King Louis XIC, Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie, first introduced it to kitchens and it has since been grown and eaten all across the continent. Lambs’s lettuce is also popular in Britain, where it first appeared in English herbalist John Gerard’s book, Herbal, in 1597. From the late 18th century, corn salad was grown commercially in London and sold at produce markets as a winter vegetable. In the 1980s, corn salad was more widespread and available in supermarkets across England. In the USA, Thomas Jefferson was known to cultivate corn salad at his home in Virginia in the early 19th century.
Corn salad is known as rapunzel in some areas of Germany, which is where the inspiration for the character of the eponymous fairy tale came from.
Nutritional benefits of lamb’s lettuce
Lamb’s lettuce is packed with beneficial nutrients that are great for the body. The nutritious plant contains vitamin A and C, folates, pantothenic acid, niacine, and choline. It also harbours many beneficial minerals such as copper, selenium, phosphorus, calcium, manganese and magnesium. It has three times as much vitamin C as lettuce, is high in B6 and iron, potassium, and beta-carotene. Lamb’s lettuce is most nutritious when foraged before flowers appear.
Health benefits of lamb’s lettuce
- Eye disorders: The beta-carotene and vitamin A antioxidants found in corn salad can help prevent various types of eye-related diseases, such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and night blindness.
- Cancer prevention: The vitamin A and C content may be a factor in preventing the risk of cancer.
- Skin disorders: Corn salad can also be used to replenish and rejuvenate the skin, thanks to its vitamin B content. The plant can also prevent skin damage and skin-related issues like wrinkles, fine lines, dark spots, and signs of ageing.
- White blood cells: Lamb’s lettuce’s rich vitamin C content helps promote the production of white blood cells.
- Antiviral: The production of white blood cells helps prevent bacterial or viral diseases.
- Immunity: Corn salad can help strengthen immunity and therefore protect the body from common diseases like the cold and flu.
Regularly consuming lamb’s lettuce can also help regulate a person’s blood sugar, reduce the risk of anaemia, boost metabolism, and improve brain function. The plant can also be useful in the treatment of osteoporosis.
How to use lamb’s lettuce in cooking
Corn salad is eaten raw, just as regular lettuce. It has a very nutty flavour that can be very strong, and oftentimes it is used sparsely in a similar way that herbs would be used. The small leaves are quite delicate and taste great in a salad or used as a garnish or decoration on the plate. The leaves of the plant are extremely delicate and will not last long in the fridge.
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