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America Has Lost Its Taste for Iceberg Lettuce

Head lettuce, especially iceberg lettuce, gained popularity through the 20th century because it was easy to transport, had a longer shelf life than other greens, and stayed crunchy in a hamburger. However, compared top other greens, it's not all that nutritious or flavorful. Statistics show that head lettuce is losing ground quickly to other greens. What about those other greens?

About year ago, journalist Amanda Mull unleashed a brief but intense national debate with her assertion in The Atlantic magazine that, after having “entered into the cultural lexicon” in the early 2010s “as a status symbol for a generation of young adults drawn to conspicuous health-consciousness,” kale is on the way out because it doesn’t taste good.

Supermarket data do show sales stopped rising a couple of years ago. But as the above chart hints, oversupply may be part of the explanation too. The acres of kale harvested in this country jumped from 6,256 in 2012 — when food magazine Bon Appetit deemed the crispy kale salad at Brooklyn restaurant Battersby its “Dish of the Year” — to 15,235 in 2017.

It’s possible the nation’s farmers got a bit ahead of the market. And yes, it really is the nation’s farmers: California is responsible for about half the acreage, and South Carolina and New Jersey have a lot too, but kale is now planted in every state. In 2017, the most recent year for which data are available, there were even nine acres harvested in Alaska.

My own experience follows the trends in greens. I was willing to try kale, and even grew some, but it doesn't taste good. I never cared for spinach until I started using it fresh in salads. And while cole slaw and sauerkraut are okay, the best use of cabbage is in kimchi. Read about the rise and fall of all kinds of green leafy vegetables at Bloomberg.

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Iceberg is the best if it is good. Latley some poor quality lettuce had shown up in my store. Prompting me to purchase others.
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