"Designer greens," mixtures of leafy vegetables, have become a healthy fad in the American diet. In their zest for green salads, Americans take a seat with the kings of Persia, Greece, and Rome. To the Greeks, it was "tridax," to the Persians, "kahn." Roman writing extolled the virtues of a dozen or more varieties of lettuce.
Cultivated lettuce is closely related to the wild lettuce, L. scariola, from which it doubtlessly descended. Although wild lettuce is found everwhere today, it appears to have originated in Asia Minor and the mid East.
Early lettuces were loose with small leaf margins and long stems. The larger-leafed and heading varieties we know today came much later. Romaine lettuce with its elongated leaves, was probably developed in Italy and is more heat tolerant than other lettuces.
Columbus was something of a gentleman farmer as well as explorer. With many other European seeds, he planted lettuce on Isabela Island (known now as Crooked Island) in Haiti in 1494 and it was quickly adopted. By the mid-1600s it became a cultivated plant in parts of South America.
European settlers undoubtedly planted lettuce in their gardens in the New World.